One of the challenges for a single diner is what to do with an entire loaf of bread. I'm not talking about the pre-sliced, sandwich-style bread that lends itself to being divided up and frozen and then defrosted when needed. That's a simple problem with an obvious solution. What I'm talking about here is a nice crusty loaf, the kind that you go out of your way to purchase from the bakery with the wood-fired oven.
What people used to call artisanal until the marketing people at Kraft took over the term. Bread that is usually large in size and flavor but short on shelf life and so delicious that you buy it even when you're sure you'll never be able to eat the whole thing.
The challenge of a great loaf of crusty bread in a single person's kitchen is that you will never finish the loaf on your own in one or two days. Sure you can freeze half of it but my experience is that artisanal bread really isn't as good after that, even if you 'refresh' it in the oven. Still, it's an option, I suppose.
What I've learned to do is to appreciate the bread in all its stages. The first day or two are indeed perfection, with the crust crispy and crackling, and the crumb tender and moist. But after that, you have to go with a steady decrease in quality and adjust your expectations. On days two and three, it's still pretty good for sandwiches, especially if you've stored it properly. Days four and five are for grilled cheese and toast. Beyond that, if there's any left, it's pretty much bread crumbs, croutons, bread salad, etc.
What's challenging about this plan is that I end up eating a lot of bread, sometimes more than I want to. When I have a nice loaf of bread in the house, and I've paid good money for it, I feel obliged to use it up. This becomes impossible to maintain week in and week out, so while good bread is a priority for me, I don't always have it on hand.
How do you manage when you're alone in the kitchen with a loaf of really good bread?
Related: Bread Bag by Stelton
(Image: Dana Velden)