Revive Stale Bread By Sweetening It Up In A Trifle

The only thing more disappointing than stale bread is having to throw it away. Of course, the classic solution is to repurpose stale bread into salty homemade croutons to place atop soups and salads. You can extend this concept into the realm of desserts by transforming stale bread into a spongey, bouncy layer of a trifle.

Dating back to 16th century England, the trifle evolved from a luxurious custard topped with pureed fruit to a multi-layered dessert, but it's always been served in a deep bowl. Now, trifles are fully customizable desserts that utilize a hodgepodge of leftover bits, from chopped nuts and dried fruits to crumbly cookies, and old fruit cakes. Stale bread will fit right in!

Most modern trifles start with a layer of cookies or cakes soaked in a flavored syrup infiltrated with juices and cream from the subsequent custard and fruit layers. Stale bread is as absorbent as cake, and soaking it in simple syrup will revive it with sweetness and moisture. Furthermore, a sugary soak will transform any previously savory or sour bread into a dessert-worthy layer for a trifle.

You can use any type of bread, from brioche to seeded breakfast bread, to stale white sandwich bread. Even if you don't soak it, creamy custard, fresh fruit, and an assortment of other sweet and crunchy tidbits will more than compensate for unsweetened bread. If you want to rid the bread of a stale flavor, you can toast it in the oven before assembling the trifle.

Bread and syrup flavor pairings

The beauty of trifles is that there's no set recipe; you decide the flavor profile you want to create. You can base your recipe on seasonal fruits, your favorite dessert, or even just the random leftover ingredients you have on hand. That said, certain types of bread may pair better with certain flavors.

White country bread has a similar consistency to vanilla sponge cake, benefiting from a lemon-infused sugar soak and topped with lemon curd, sour cream, and fresh berries for a light summery trifle. Another idea would be to soak white bread in heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk, then layer on cinnamon vanilla custard, and candied pecans for a cinnamon toast-inspired trifle. You could draw inspiration from a strawberry shortcake by soaking stale biscuits in strawberry syrup and topping them with vanilla custard, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream.

A richer bread like challah or brioche could fill in for a panettone or fruit cake, soaked in orange syrup and layered with dried fruit, mascarpone, and toasted almonds. Country wheat bread soaked in honey syrup and topped with banana pudding, slices of fresh banana, whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and a peanut butter drizzle would be the ultimate peanut butter and banana sandwich trifle.