Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bread Dumplings--Bread Recycling

I cannot speak for others, but in my culture bread has always been a symbol of hospitality and kindness, and throwing it away is considered a sin. Therefore I always feel very uncomfortable when a perfectly good bread becomes stale and there is not much to do with it. I collect all bread remains in a paper bag and use them for breadcrumbs (so useful for lining the baking tins) or use it for different dishes in which soaked white bread is needed.

But as I already said many times we are bread lovers, so I often have good breads at home. Many of them, especially an Italian ciabatta or a French baguette, or the one I make myself, become dry very quickly. Last month, I found a huge bag of stale bread in my pantry and it came to me that it could be used to make dumplings. I dug out the recipe to make it again and also did a little more research on that subject.

Surprisingly, my research yielded a lot of interesting recipes. For example. I learned that stale sweet bread can be turned into attractive desserts, very popular in France and England. Unfortunately, I almost never buy sweet bread or even a typical American toast bread. My recipe for today works with any European style bread, that has no sugar, or virtually no sugar in it. It is particularly worth trying if you happen to collect more stale bread than you know how to use.

Those dumplings can be served as a dish in itself or be done without mushrooms and served as meat accompaniment. Those who like hearty meals can add also fried bacon to the dough or put some fried bacon on top with instead or in addition to the mushrooms. If you are curious of that dish but do not have stale bread you can use breadcrumbs, although they have usually a little bit of sweetness that can be detected in those dumplings.

My favorite version was the vegetarian one, served with melted butter or shredded Parmesan, and accompanied by crispy cabbage or lettuce salad.

Stale Bread Dumplings
(Serves four)

2 and 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (11 oz),
1/2 cup shredded cheddar,
8 oz white cup mushrooms,
2 eggs,
1/2 onion, thinly chopped,
1/2 cup table cream,
salt and pepper,
2 tbsp olive oil.

1. Wash mushrooms and grate them on a grater with large holes.
2. In a frying pan heat the oil, add onion, and fry it on a medium heat until transparent.
3. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, and continue to fry for 5-8 minutes, until water evaporates and mushrooms become lightly gold. Take the pan from the heat and let it cool down.
4. Put the pieces of dry bread in a food processor and pulse them several times, until they make breadcrumbs.
5. Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and add mushrooms with onion, cream, cheese, and egg yolks.

6. Beat egg whites into a stiff foam and add to the dough. Using hands mix all the ingredients until they form a homogenous dough.
7. Form dumplings about one-inch wide and two-inch long. Place them on a board sprinkled lightly with flour.

8. In a large pot boil water with a tbsp of salt. Throw in dumplings and cook them for about 3 minutes from the moment they rise to the surface. Drain them on a colander.

Serve with melted butter or shredded Parmesan.

and with fresh salad.