Thursday, December 11, 2014

Use It Up: Stale Baked Goods

Many things are tossed into the garbage can when they still have lots of good life left in them. Use It Up is a section on how to use this "trash" to make new useful items for your home or to re-purpose items to avoid a purchase.

Trucker gets a lot of free day-old baked goods from his job and sometimes they get stale before we get a chance to eat them. They would have been thrown away otherwise, but I did want to use them if at all possible.

Our aim is to completely eliminate all food waste. This is for both environmental and economic values. Americans throw away about half of the food they buy, and that's not including the food wasted at the farm and grocery levels. While I can't change some aspects of food waste, I can work really hard to reduce the amount my family wastes. So many resources-land, fresh water, fertilizers (both artificial and natural), and time-go into producing food and it is immoral to throw it in the garbage, where it produces gases that poison our air. Then there's the financial side of it. I have to spend time and money to get to work, then work long hours, and then drive home every day. I get my paycheck and pay taxes on it. Then I pay taxes at the store. Why would I want to let any food go to waste when I had to work so hard to get it? If I can reduce that expense, I can save more money and then not have to work as much in the future. The case of a crunched muffin is a small thing, but it is a part of a larger lifestyle modification that allows me to live in accordance to my goals, dreams and values.

A lot of people get squeamish about using "less than fresh" items in cooking at home, but our grandparents did this as a matter of course. Throwing away food that was still edible just wasn't an option when food was hard to come by. Not only this, but I have worked in bakeries for the better part of a decade, and let me tell you, bakeries know how to use it up! Every bakery I've worked at had recipes for using up items that didn't sell to make a new, fresh item. It helped profits, reduced waste and some of the items were customer favorites. If it's good enough for a professional bakery, it's certainly good enough for your home kitchen. If your family is squeamish about the idea, don't tell them.

The other day I had a scone for breakfast, but wasn't hungry enough to eat the entire thing. The other half was hard by the time I got back to it. One of the muffins that Trucker brought home from his job got smooshed in his backpack. Rather than throw them away, I crumbled them and let them air dry. This morning I wanted to make an apple crisp, and decided to use these sweets crumbles in place of the flour or oats in the topping. As you can see in the photos, I used a variety of crumbs: cranberry scone, a crunched chocolate chip cookie, the crumbs from the bottom of the bag from the bakery we visited on our trip, and a morning glory muffin (carrot, pumpkin, coconut, oats, and raisins).

 I simply melted a stick of butter, and added in the crumbles. Since the baked goods were already sweetened, I didn't add any more sugar (although I always drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the apples before topping). I baked as usual. It turned out perfectly!

There are many other ways to use up baked sweets that get stale before you eat them, or get broken, or simply the crumbs at the bottom of the bag. This will not only reduce your waste, but can save you money on the ingredients you are replacing (In the case of my crisp, I avoided using 2 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of flour, and a cup of sugar!)

Use crumbs of baked goods for a crunchy topping for muffins, pies and sweet breads.

Make bread crumb cookies with either regular bread crumbs, or crumbled sweets. I first heard of this idea in the Tightwad Gazette books. Sounds weird, but tastes fine and is a very frugal dessert.

Use stale or broken cookies in place of graham crackers to make crusts for cheesecakes and pudding pies.

Bread pudding is a great way to use up not just stale bread, but also muffins, bagels, croissants, waffles, cookies, doughnuts or cake.

One of the bakeries I've worked at makes crisps from stale pies. When they are still perfectly edible, but the pie crust is less flaky and wonderful, we would smoosh the entire pie, pack into a baking dish, top with struesel and bake until the top was golden. People loved them and never realized that they were just a way to reduce our shrink.

Cake pops are a perfect way to use up cake that is dry or stale. It's an easy and kid-friendly recipe. I've taken it to potlucks and it has disappeared in minutes.

Slice bagels thin, like bread. Then use them to make french toast dippers-a fun breakfast for kids. Plus the smaller size will allow you to fit more pieces into the skillet at a time. Cinnamon raisin bagels are particularly amazing for this.

Use baked goods either as an ice cream topping or to make homemade blizzards. Use brownies, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, 7-layer bars, buckeye bars, etc. Crumble if using as a topping, or chuck the whole thing in the blender when making shakes.

If you make your own ice cream, you can mix some items into the custard right before freezing for treats such as "brownie ice cream" or "red velvet cake ice cream".

Make a trifle with leftover cake or muffins.

Use as the stuffing in stuffed apples. This is a good use for muffins or scones or anything cinnamony or caramelly.

Once at a bakery I worked at, we put chunks of leftover cheesecake into brownie batter. It was good in a strange way and had its fans.

Use berry based muffins to make a sweet crouton for topping fruit salads.

Add crumbled scones to granola mixes.

While not a baked good, I have another apple crisp tip. Save the crumbs at the bottom of cereal bags and use this as the topping. Bran flakes, cheerios or other bland cereals are perfect and the more colorful ones are okay, as long as you don't get overwhelmed by the psychedelic colors.

I've already written posts on using stale bread and making breadcrumbs if you'd like more tips for using up baked goods.

Did I miss anything? Do you have a favorite way to use up baked goods that are broken or stale? Share in the comment!

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1 comment:

  1. I grew up in a Scandinavian household and learned to love rusks, which we called "oven toast". Thinly slice stale bread, buns, bagels or cinnamon buns, place them on a cookie sheet and bake until crisp and lightly browned. You can also do them in a hot oven which has been turned off after other baking. Heat intensifies the original flavour and toasted rusks have a long shelf life.


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