American sandwich bread is gross. One look at the ingredients will tell you why, and it’s usually number three on the list. No, it’s not the random chemicals and preservatives–though we do not approve of them either–but the sugar. Or, in most cases, the high fructose corn syrup. These suspect loaves could, however, be sweetened with cane sugar and I’d still be up in arms.
REAL basic bread, like from a bakery and not the “bread” aisle, does not have sugar in it. You can taste the difference. Mr. T, with his refined European palate (or, really, his hate of sweet where there should be none) was quick to point this out when we first began to cohabitate, and shopping habits were adjusted accordingly.
While we usually have some bagged bread on hand in the refrigerator in case of a toast emergency (if you’ve ever lived with someone from the UK, you’ll know that toast emergencies are SERIOUS crises), it’ll have no sugar in it. Hard to find? Mais oui, even at Whole Foods.
In any event, though, that the majority of our bread is of the bakery variety–much, much tastier, but also quicker to go stale. I suspect that the sweetness, or lack thereof, has something to do with this. Sugar, being hygroscopic, holds onto moisture, so sweeter bread probably helps bread stay softer, longer. See also: gross chemical preservatives.
So, what to do with all that good, expensive bread that’s gone stale? (This is what’s called “burying the lede, kiddies.) Call forth your inner thrifty French housewife and make breadcrumbs! This is very exciting for your inner thrifty French housewife, because she loves to gratinee things, bind things, and generally improve whatever it is she’s making with the crunchifying, stickifying power of the breadcrumb.
Thanks to our habit of having decent bread in the house, I now also have a nice big zip-t0p bag full of breadcrumbs in the freezer. Whenever I find a rock-hard bit of baguette or somesuch loitering around the kitchen, I just chop it up, whizz it in the food processor, and add it to the bag. I dip in surprisingly often, sifting bigger crumbs to top casseroles or gratins, and the finer bits to stick meatballs or meatloaf together.
Viva la breadcrumb!