Stale bread for cinnamon fritters and tortine di mozzarella

Cooking as a family has been keeping us grounded and inspired lately. We have been baking a lot, Marco has started a new sourdough project, while Mariu, our 7 year old, and I have been making some recipe videos.

These are two really easy recipes that you can make with stale bread — and I mean you can use completely rock hard bread. Tuscans never, ever throw out bread. It is revived and made into salads like panzanella, soups like pappa al pomodoro or ribollita, crostini and that stale bread is turned into many more meals. We often have stale bread lying around (especially now that we are making our own) and I set it aside, bit by bit, until I have about half a big loaf’s worth and then I make a cake with it – savoury or sweet.

This was one of those times we wanted both, Mariu liked the idea of making something sweet inspired by her favourite snack, cinnamon toast, I wanted to do something savoury to make good use of some mozzarella and caprino (fresh goats curd) I had. I don’t know if these kind of recipes already exist but basically we dreamed these up one day while in Lockdown and not having any flour at home and not wanting to make a trip to the supermarket. They were largely inspired by a stale bread cake that I love to make (see Giulia’s recipe for that here) and that I have made in a million variations, including savoury versions (a savoury bread cake is essentially very similar to a savoury bread and butter pudding or breakfast ‘cake’, strata). We didn’t have enough bread for a whole cake so I thought we could fry them like pancakes.

Notes: I started with about 350 grams of stale Tuscan bread, or half a big loaf of country style bread and poured 2 cups/500 ml of almost-boiled milk over it. If your bread is very stale and dry (as my Tuscan bread was) you may need to leave it to soak for a few hours, eventually in the fridge when the milk cools. If not, you should be fine with leaving it to soak for about 15 minutes, or until you can crumble the bread with your hands (and you may need to squeeze out excess liquid, see how you go). Extremely hard crusts may need to be discarded.

We split the bread into two bowls for the 2 different recipes below, so make note if you are only making one of these recipes you’ll only need 1 cup of milk and roughly 180 grams of stale bread (about 1/4 of a country style loaf). This is a fun one to do with kids, you can watch Mariu’s cinnamon sugar fritter video on my IGTV or here at Vimeo.

Frittelle di cannella // Cinnamon sugar fritters

This is a very forgiving, very delicious, you-can-do-it-by-eye type recipe. Along with the milk-soaked bread above, crumbled into a bowl, add 2 beaten eggs, about 30 grams of melted butter, 1/3 cup/70 grams sugar, a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon and mix until you have a sort of chunky batter. You can even use an immersion blender to do this very quickly. Add a tablespoon of butter to a cast iron or non stick pan and fry spoonful-sized blobs of the batter like pancakes. Flip and cook on the other side until browned and delightfully springy. Add butter as needed for greasing until they’re all fried. Once finished, dust in cinnamon sugar (combine 3 tablespoons of sugar with half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon) and serve warm. This makes approximately 12 fritters.

Tortine di mozzarella e caprino

I don’t know what to call these. Tortine di formaggio (little cakes of cheese)? Sformato di formaggio? Cheesy muffins (Marco said that sounded ridiculous)? They essentially taste like baked mozzarella in carrozza, mozzarella sandwiches, so I even considered calling them baked mozzarella in carrozza! Anyway, they are delicious warm or cold, and this small size is perfect for antipasto or aperitivo (we enjoyed the with some hand-cut prosciutto and a glass of wine) or a snack or part of lunch with some salad (the girls prefer raw vegetable sticks!).

Combine the rest of the crumbled milk-soaked bread with 1 egg, salt and pepper, 200 grams of cheese (I used 100 grams of goats curd and a 100 gram ball of mozzarella, chopped into 1cm cubes). Use any cheese you like or the equivalent bits and pieces, even other things — consider one or two of the following: chopped ham, peas, or sliced mushrooms that have been cooked down, roasted cherry tomatoes, herbs, finely chopped spring onions, even anchovies!

You can make fritters exactly like the cinnamon toast ones (they are cheesy and melty) or bake this in a small baking dish like a gratin, even in a round cake tin! I thought the girls would be more likely to eat this as a snack so I baked them in a muffin tin greased with butter. Dot some more butter over the top and sprinkle some dried breadcrumbs and grated parmesan over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Wait 5 minutes to remove them carefully (they will be soft and cheesy while warm and will harden as they cool). Makes 8-10 tortine.

We enjoyed these tortine as aperitivo in the neighbour’s unused olive grove which has been providing us with so much relief and a breath of fresh air during the Covid-19 Lockdown, since we are not allowed to go to parks or playgrounds and even a simple walk is discouraged. It has been a refuge for us when our small apartment gets too small for the four of us and, it turns out, taking a glass of wine or a little picnic of cookies for the girls down there feels so special, particularly at this golden hour just before the sun goes down. These cute fifties-style cat eye sunglasses by Max Mara were a gift from VisionDirect.


Leave A Comment