Loafing Around

Go beyond the sandwich with clever ways to use bread

Bread, glorious bread. It holds your spreads and sops your sauces. It turns random ingredients into a sandwich and thus a meal. And there's so much more that bread is capable of. Like this.

Skim fat: Making soup or stew and want to eat it today? There's no need to refrigerate it overnight in order to solidify the fat to then strain off. Simply place a couple pieces of bread that have been lightly toasted on top of the soup, so that they absorb most of the fat.

Catch grease: A couple of stale slices placed at the bottom of your drip pan will make cleanup a whole lot easier. Toss the grease-soaked slices or feed 'em to your dog, if they're into that kind of thing.

Test for hot spots: Got a new-to-you oven? Before you bake that delicate soufflé, determine if your oven's cooking evenly. Put a rack in the middle, preheat to 350° and place several pieces of bread across the rack in a rectangular shape. Let toast. Darker spots indicate the areas where your oven's hot, so you can rotate future baked goods accordingly. Oh, and get an oven thermometer.

Clean your grinder: Sometimes, you want to grind up something that isn't coffee, like whole spices or grains. Remove the lingering java grounds—and smell—in your coffee grinder by whizzing a few chunks of bread in it. Any remaining particles and oils will stick to the bread. Rinse, wipe, ready to go.

Soften brown sugar: Say your once soft brown sugar has turned into a brick. Make it pliant once more by adding a piece of bread to the bag and letting it sit overnight. (Use a whole piece or just a corner, depending on how much sugar you have.) Brown sugar, which has a high moisture content, becomes hard when its inherent moisture evaporates. A piece of bread reintroduces just enough humidity to make the sugar supple again. Store it in an airtight container once it's soft.