We have thoroughly enjoyed the LouisMill Sourdough bread! They do an overnight fermentation and bake in a wood fired oven--done this way, flour, water, and some salt, is transformed into bread,
you know, real bread
I for one find myself hardly able to stop eating it once I start. That's how I know it's good, and nourishing.
I used to bake bread in Nashville in my own backyard wood-fired oven, and I was quite into baking. One thing I love about bread is that it has a rhythm, or routine, to its use.
Historically, the village might have one oven. The people of the village would bring their dough to this central oven, which was usually just fired once a week. So, by necessity the peasant villagers would need to make their bread last until the time the oven was fired again. In this way, a natural life cycle of the loaf developed, from fresh loaf right from the oven all the way to crouton.
[For a beautiful image of this story, please check out Michael Pollan's "Cooked" Series on Netflix
! There's an entire episode on the beauty of bread.]
So here are some tips and ideas of how to handle your bread throughout the week. As the freshness declines there is, of course, a sadness, but there are also a number of delicious and nourishing ways we can use the declining loaf.
It's obvious, but the first use is fresh eating. It's what we all think of. That still warm, crackling crust, and almost effervescent aroma. It's at this stage I like to tear the bread rather than cut it. It's this that you eat walking down a lazy street. The addition of some soft butter is one of life's great and simple pleasures. Enjoy it.
By day two and three the bread is changing. The crust might be a bit lack luster by now, loosing it's crispness and romance. The honeymoon is over, and the real work begins. At this still early stage of the loaf, it doesn't take much to revive it's glory--drizzled with some olive oil before a light toasting under the broiler is all you need. Then it can be topped with any number of things: butter with thinly sliced radishes (a personal favorite), an egg (maybe with some sautéed greens), avocado if you're into being fashionable, or simply let your toast adorn the side of your soup bowl.
By day four and five, its likely a bit dryer, a bit harder, and maybe even fighting back against the serrated knife. This is when it's ideal to start re-hydrating the bread: think Sourdough French Toast
, bread salads
, or even bread soups. Here's a great recipe and article
about bread soups and a little of their history. Or, instead, of re-hydrating it can be intentionally and further dried into croutons. Croutons can obviously top a green salad, but can also be a more major component of the dish. Check out Josh McFadden's Torn Crouton Salad
Come day six and seven, if there is anything left of your loaf at this point, the last and final thing to do with what is by now tooth-chipping, rock solid nub is to make breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs, stored in the pantry, become a go-to addition to any dish that needs a crunch--pastas
, casseroles, or after short trip in the food processor, breading for delicious fried things.
As a final note, while some people prefer a plastic bag, you can simply store your bread in the paper bag on the counter. It shouldn't mold or anything like that. It's just naturally and slowly drying out, which is exactly what you want it to do.
If there's a loaf you want to save for later, pop it in the plastic bag and put it in the freezer. Then let it thaw completely before re-crisping the crust in the oven--about 375 for 10-15 minutes (some tricks are to wrap it in foil or brush some water over the crust...I usually don't bother with either).