It has been known to happen that even the biggest bread enthusiasts cannot consume or give away all of the loaves that they make! While freezing is certainly the very best remedy for this dilemma, all of the wonderful things that can be done with stale bread provide another avenue for making use of bread wasn't eaten during its prime.
Strata is one of our very favorite things to make when we find ourselves with a stale loaf. The basic recipe is super easy and lends itself to experimentation and improvisation. Strata is sort of a cross between french toast and a quiche and blends the eggy goodness of both.
The strata essentials are stale bread, eggs, milk, and grated cheese. If you have these ingredients, anything else you add just gives it your unique flavor. One of our favorite recipes includes just a few additional simple ingredients to the basic recipe, and really makes this a great dish to serve at a brunch. This recipe calls for doing most of the work the night before, and then baking the strata in the morning.
Breakfast Strata with Bacon and Sauteed Onion
1 loaf of stale, crusty bread (about half a pound / 500 grams)
2 tbsp butter
8 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
5-7 strips of bacon
Small bunch chives, finely chopped
Small bunch parsley, finely chopped (for garnish)
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 Salt + pepper (or more to taste)
PREP (THE NIGHT BEFORE)
Start by frying the bacon until crispy. Reserve some of the bacon grease, and sauteé the onion until it is lightly caramelized. While onion is cooking, cut the bread into large 1-inch chunks.
Remove the onion from heat and grease a large baking dish with butter.
Mix the eggs, milk, the cup of parmesan cheese, and one of the cups of cheddar. Add the caramelized onion, about 2 teaspoons of chopped chives, the 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage, and salt and pepper. Mix well.
Add the bread cubes to the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the bacon evenly on top of the bread, and then pour the egg mixture over the bread.
Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
BAKE (IN THE MORNING)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Take the strata out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while the oven is preheating.
When the oven is ready, cover the surface of the strata with the remaining cup of grated cheddar cheese.
Put aluminum foil back over the top of strata for baking, being careful to not let the foil touch the cheese. (Or it will stick).
Bake in oven for 45 minutes. Take the foil off after 45 minutes to allow the cheese to thoroughly brown. Top with chopped parsley (if desired).
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This is the recipe that got us into baking bread at home. My Dad bakes baguettes exclusively and now bakes two at a time on the Fourneau tray. A few of these are demi baguettes are always at the ready in the freezer; they reheat beautifully into extra crusty loaves that accompany any meal.
Delicious, freshly baked croutons make this stuffing-inspired Caesar salad a winner.