Robin Anish | The Table Is Set: Try some real crumb-y pancakes

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On a recent morning with my dog, Riley, in tow, I went outdoors to throw out some stale bread to feed the birds. As I walked, I tore off bits of bread and dropped them along the way and as I dropped them, Riley ate them! It was a Hansel and Gretel moment!

Unless it's moldy, I don't like to waste bread even if I have to feed it to the birds to make good use of every last crumb. How often do the last few slices of bread in the bag or a few stale rolls get tossed? Loaves of fresh, artisan breads lose their appeal in a day or two and are thrown away. Such a waste.

So what is stale bread good for?

Bread pudding, french toast, savory stratas, stuffings and the thick slice of french bread dripping with melted cheese in a bowl of onion soup are all best made with stale bread, so it can soak up liquids without falling apart.

No doubt frugality resulted in the classic Tuscan panzanella salad, or bread salad, an old Italian recipe consisting of cubed, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, tossed with vinegar and oil, and cubes of stale bread that absorb all the wonderful juices and flavors from the vegetables.

Chunks of bread added to soup and simmered until they break down thickens the soup and makes it extra hearty and delicious.

Make homemade croutons using stale bread cubes, tossed with olive oil or melted butter and seasonings, and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and crisp. The same process can be used with slices of bread to make crispy little toasts as a base for hor d'oeuvres and as dippers.

I always have a container of bread crumbs in my freezer. The easiest thing to do with leftover bread is to run it through a food processor and freeze the crumbs so they are ready for use in meatloaf and meatballs, coating foods for frying or creating a crispy crust on casseroles.

Sweet or savory, you'd never again throw away bread after making bread dumplings.

One of my favorite desserts is apple brown betty, an old-fashioned recipe that layers apples with lots of buttered bread crumbs and baked. Recipes can be found using bread crumbs in cake and cookie recipes or in this recipe for bread crumb pancakes.

Bread crumb pancakes

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, well beaten

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon melted butter



DIRECTIONS:


Microwave milk for 2 minutes, pour over bread crumbs and let stand for 15 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add to crumb mixture with the egg, honey and butter. Mix until well blended and smooth. Pour a 1/4 cup for each pancake onto a medium hot, greased griddle and cook until golden brown on each side. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.


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