In the apartment where I babysit, there is something that has long puzzled me. Hanging beside the butcher’s block is a cloth sack where the family tosses the ends of baguettes. A baguette has approximately 24 hours in which to be consumed, and after this small window, its lack of preservatives turns it into something more resembling a brick. I am being generous with this 24-hour window; the girls I watch complain if I try to give them that morning’s baguette at dinnertime. Therefore, I understand why you would have to throw away a surprising amount of baguette, but I don’t get the bag. It will be there for weeks, and then suddenly be empty. My first thought was that they maybe take it to their country home and feed ducks, but then I remembered that ducks have no teeth, and would have no mechanism of dissecting and digesting the rock-hard month-old bread. Maybe they eventually just throw it away. But then, why not just throw it away in the first place? Is this some remnant of French peasant life that has seeped its way into bourgeois French society? I wouldn’t be that surprised, as I am often shocked by very primitive elements in this most chic culture.
But the real question that I have is, how do they have leftover baguette? I do not need a bag for my dried baguette, because very rarely does a baguette endure longer than 24 hours before it is lovingly, albeit voraciously, consumed. During my first couple months in Paris, the baguette barely made it 4 hours, as half was usual consumed during my endless climb of stairs. What remained after my meal was then slathered in Nutella and enjoyed as dessert. I excused this baguette frenzy under the disclaimer that my favorite boulangerie (as seen in the pictures) was closed on weekends so I needed to profit from its days open.
I have calmed a little in my carb love, and as one person can’t (ok, shouldn’t – it is totally possible) eat a baguette in one meal, I am often faced with the question of what to do with my dried out baguette the day after. Throwing it out is only an option that I reserve for inferior baguettes, or ones I forgot about until the fossilized. To avoid the fate of the bread Nutella binge, I have found several ways for resurrecting dried baguette. I originally tried to microwave it, which revives the interior for approximately 30 seconds before it collapses into a concrete state from which there is no recovery. I learned my lesson. Without a toaster or oven (wherein I could make bread pudding – yum) I resort to the following options:
For slightly dry: Mixing olive oil, fresh Parmesan, and diced herbs atones for any dryness, as the bread becomes a vehicle for sauce. This same theory applies to sopping up soup or fresh marinara.
For rather dry: Cut in chunks and sauté in olive oil to make homemade croutons. Then toss with spinach, smashed fresh cherries, balsamic vinegar, and feta. Moral of story: when all else fails, just add more cheese
For very dry (we are talking 36 hours or so here): Day after baguette toast, one of my favorites, made in a skillet with sizzling butter and then spread with lavender honey.
While I am babysitting, I submit to the unfathomable ways of the French and toss the rejected baguette ends into the cloth bag. But not chez moi. A bag of dried baguettes hanging in the kitchen is a testament to a self-control that I have not yet developed, nor do I care to.