Is This Really the Best Way to Revive Stale Bread?

published Apr 22, 2016
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

As much as I love bread (and I do really love bread), I can never seem to get through a loaf fast enough. With just a household of two, we rarely make it through a whole loaf before it begins to harden and stale. So when I came across a tip for reviving stale bread on Bon Appétit’s website about a year ago, I was definitely intrigued. The only problem was that I was too skeptical to actually try it, as the tip seemed destined for failure.

The Original Tip

The reason I felt this way? The tips instructs you to basically douse the whole loaf in water. Yes, you run the stale loaf under running water. How can going from stale to soggy bread be an improvement? Then you stick the wet loaf in a warm oven for six to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. According to the tip, the water turns into steam, which rehydrates the loaf, resulting in one that’s like-new, with a crisp crust and moist interior.

The Testing Method

Since I first read it, it all seemed too good to be true. I couldn’t imagine how water could bring a stale loaf to life. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized I honestly didn’t have much to lose besides potentially ruining the loaf and having to toss it. I used half of a small sourdough loaf for the test. It had been sitting out on my counter in a paper bag for almost two days and was rock-hard.

I held the stale loaf under the kitchen faucet, with the cut-side facing down, as recommended in the tip so that the interior wouldn’t get too wet. I ran water over the loaf, making sure that the entire crust got wet. Then I placed it directly on the rack in my oven, which I preheated to 300°F. I set the timer for 12 minutes, but began checking the bread after six minutes. As soon as the bread hit the rack, it steamed and sizzled. Within a few minutes the warm, toasty smell of baking bread began to seep out of the oven and my skepticism began to turn to excitement (and hunger).

The Results

At six minutes, the crust had come back to life, but the interior was still damp. I had tried my best not to expose the interior to water, but a little got in no matter how hard I tried. After eight minutes, however, the loaf was perfect. The interior water had evaporated and what was left was a loaf that looked as good as, if not better than, when I had bought it. And even better? The smell of freshly baked bread was wafting through my kitchen.

Verdict: This is a mind-blowing tip.

Final Notes

There’s not much more to say than this trick is ingenious. I honestly regret being so dubious for so long. Usually, in the past, when my loaves have gone stale, I’ve tried to salvage them by turning them into croutons, breadcrumbs, or crostini. But now I have the option of turning them back into fresh bread if I want to.