How to Dry Bread Quickly…and why

Today has been incredibly long (yet wonderful).  I’ve been out of the house for 16 hours and am sitting down for the first time since 5:30 in the morning and am sitting to write a quick post.

I was at cooking school this evening when our Chef covered bread pudding and stuffing and emphasized the use of dry or slightly dry bread.  The reason was clear: the drier the bread is, the more it will absorb the liquid it is cooked with and thus add more flavor (it is arguable that it also adds texture).

Over the years I’ve found that letting bread turn into a dense brick isn’t a great strategy for stuffing (though it can be wonderful for breadcrumbs).  It simply becomes too tough to cut.  So I prefer to start with fresh bread and dry it quickly (there is one exception below) and dry it in a few hours or overnight and partly dry it for use.  There’s a bunch of ways to do this easily, here’s a few tricks:

  • Cut the bread into cubes and place in a bowl.  Place it, uncovered, in a warm spot in your kitchen.  Toss it every few hours to increase air circulation.  This is the way I did it for a long time but I now prefer one of the next two (though this will work).
  • Cut bread into cubes, spread on a rack and place the rack over a baking sheet to catch crumbs.  This will increase the access to air for the bread and speed the process.  If you’re bread is touching other bread, mix around like in the option above.
  • This one isn’t instant: cut any bread remains that you have at any time.  Dry per either instruction above and freeze so you can pull it out the moment you need it.  This is my favorite as it uses bread that is past its prime and not taking a fresh piece and intentionally drying it out.
  • Cut bread in cubes and place in the oven on low heat for 20-30 minutes, tossing every 5 or 10.
  • Cut bread into pieces and place in a dehydrator for a few hours (taste and feel as it goes).

I find each of these far more effective than creating a bread brick and sawing it into crumbly pieces after.

What do you do when you need dried bread?

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  1. Between chickens and a hungry family, my bread box is always empty. I have to bake bread specifically for drying, so I usually use the low oven method.

    Have you ever made bread kvass? I’m saving crusts in the freezer for my first batch.

  2. With food that I’m using for “components” for lack of better word, I’m incredibly impatient, so I use the oven. For croutons, there’s a bakery near me that sells these seeded breadsticks that are the exact size and shape that I can make great and consistent croutons with. Also, I use a higher heat and get them nice and toasty because that’s how i like my croutons.

    For bread crumbs, i try to cut it down and oven dry, i’ve made the mistake that you mentioned, and almost lost a good bread knife to an obscenely hard loaf of bread I was going to use for crumbs.