Discover more from Catherine is under pressure
Sadly I haven’t managed to make a perfect loaf in my pressure cooker – I can manage cornbread and Boston Brown Bread, but not a crusty loaf. I have heard tell of a version using a dry pressure cooker, but I haven’t experimented yet….
No, this is about stale bread and what to do with it. I don’t have a bread bin in my kitchen – no counter space – and I don’t even have one of those lined bread bags either. Instead, bread sits in a paper wrapping, which means it doesn’t go mouldy, but does go extremely hard. Brick hard. Bread knife glancing off it and doing you an injury hard. So I refresh stale bread quite a lot.
For the longest time I always did the oven method – hold the bread under a running tap, wrap in foil, stick in the oven. It absorbs the moisture and gives an excellent crust – perfect if you want to eat it as is. But it is an expensive endeavour if it is the only reason you are putting the oven on, so it struck me I could try a pressure cooker version.
I put a little water in the base of my pressure cooker – around 1cm. Then the bread goes in the steamer basket, above the water line. I line the base of the steamer basket with foil to prevent the bottom of the bread getting too soggy and put the bread on top. Then I close the lid, bring up to high pressure and fast release. That is all it takes. The bread isn’t completely crisp – so this isn’t a method for refreshing to a crusty loaf. But it is soft enough to slice and good for toasting or using in other ways. So here are a couple of recipes made with bread I have refreshed. Of course, the ideal is to use bread that is a couple of days old – stale but not so stale you can’t cut into it, but this method does mean you can use bread otherwise consigned to the food waste bin.
I have recipes for both sweet and savoury bread puddings in Modern Pressure Cooking. They work with any kind of bread – one of my most successful was a very spicy one made with cornbread muffins and pickled jalapenos. This is one made with a stale sourdough. Infinitely variable, it is a favourite and comforting way of using up leftovers in my house – any type of meat, cooked vegetable, cheese will work. I particularly like a more Mediterranean one with roast red onions, olives and squares of feta pushed into it. In autumn I might use some roasted butternut squash, apple, ham, a touch of maple syrup. This is one my son loves.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 rashers of bacon (or any other meat), diced
50g mushrooms, sliced
Leaves from a sprig of thyme
200g stale bread, diced
100g cheese, grated (I used a mixture of cheddar and Ogleshield)
100g cherry tomatoes
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and bacon. Fry until the bacon is crisp and the onion is soft and browning, then add the mushrooms. Fry until the mushrooms are lightly browned, then stir in the garlic and thyme leaves. Remove from the heat.
Put the eggs in a bowl and beat to break up. Add the milk and plenty of seasoning, then add the bread. Push it down into the egg mixture – you will find that it will quickly absorb most of it. Stir in the contents of the frying pan followed by three quarters of the cheese.
Butter or oil a round ovenproof dish – I find that a 18cm deep soufflé dish is ideal. Squash the mixture firmly down into the dish, then push in the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Cover the dish with buttered baking parchment or foil. You can secure it in place with a rubber band.
Put 2cm water in the base of your pressure cooker and add a trivet. Place the dish on top, then close the lid. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, then allow to drop pressure naturally. You can eat as is, or put under a hot grill for a few minutes to crisp up the top. And of course, if you are using an electric pressure cooker which also has an air fryer function, you can finish off with that, instead.
And here is a recipe which also uses the stale bread but also uses another pressure cooker hack – a very fast, economical way of “roasting” red peppers. This is traditionally a late summer recipe which I’m including now because I think it is robust enough for this time of year, and because I am making the most of the excellent Iberico winter tomatoes, which – perhaps controversially – are my favourite of all the tomatoes. I doubt they will be in season for much longer.
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For the peppers:
2 tbsp olive oil
A sprig of rosemary
2 red peppers, halved
For the salad:
200g stale sourdough, torn or cut into chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in salted water for 30 minutes
300g ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tin anchovies, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
2 tbsp black olives, stoned and sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
A mixture of herbs – basil, mint, thyme, parsley, whatever you like
First roast the peppers. Cut in half and remove any seeds. Heat your pressure cooker, then add the oil and rosemary. Add the peppers, skin side down and sear until you can see that the skin is browning. You need to work fast at this point – have your lid ready to put on, and pour in water – I use 50ml, finding it creates enough steam to bring my cookers up to pressure, but add more if it makes you more comfortable – just don’t flood it, 100ml is absolutely enough.
As soon as you pour in the water, the cooker will generate a lot of steam. Put the lid on as quickly as you can. You should find that it immediately starts coming up to pressure. Leave to cook at high pressure for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and leave to drop pressure naturally.
Remove the peppers from the cooker – you will find that the slow pressure release makes the skins very easy to remove. Peel the skins off as soon as the peppers are cool enough to handle and tear into strips.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the bread. Fry briskly until the bread has started to crisp up, then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Season well.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and put in a sieve. Sprinkle over plenty of salt and leave to drain over a bowl to catch the juice.
Put the sherry vinegar, anchovies and their oil, capers and olives in a large salad bowl. Add the tomato juice from straining the tomatoes. You can also add any oil and liquor from roasting the red peppers if you like. Add the bread and mix thoroughly, so the bread is well coated, then add the tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs. Leave to stand at room temperature for at least half an hour before serving.