Confession: I love bagels. I love to make them, but above all, I love to eat them. In college I ran a mini-bagel business from my kitchen, and on bagel-making day, it wasn't uncommon for me to eat the circular goodies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Yet even with my obsession I can't always eat bagels fast enough to keep them from going stale. That's why I started learning ways to use bagels even when they're a day or three past their prime. As it turns out, there are a million and one things you can do with stale bagels, and here are 7 of my favorites.
Surprise! Your bagel may not be lost after all. So if you're hell-bent on avoiding the other fun options below and simply want a traditional bagel and cream cheese, try this handy trick.
Start with something completely unintuitive: rinse your bagel under water, hot or cold. Then throw it straight into an over at 325°F (put it directly on the rack, not on a sheet pan) for 3-4 minutes. The steam will turn your stale bagel into a perfect bagel once more. Amazingly, a similar technique also works with potato chips and stale baguettes.
I love making bagel chips because it makes me feel smart and cunning, even though I let my bagels get stale. Why? Because with a few 30 cent bagels, you can make bagel chips that taste ten times better than the bags in the store, which often cost $5. And they're remarkably easy: cut bagels into slices (horizontally or vertically), put them on a sheet pan, add oil, salt, pepper, and some spices, and bake at 375°F until they turn golden and crispy (they go extremely well with homemade hummus).
If you don't want to eat your stale bagel, you can use it other ways. Cut it in half and pull out the insides and you can use the crust as a bowl for dipping sauces, or egg or tuna salads. You can find other ingenious uses, like this one from Recipe Girl: she scoops out the inside of her bagels and bakes quiche inside them.
If I had to pick my 10 favorite foods, homemade croutons would definitely make the list. Stale bagels make perfect croutons (the flavor of the bagel really comes out), and you can even use the aforementioned bagel innards that you pulled from the bread bowl. You don't even need to cook the croutons, since they get pretty crunchy on their own (chicken fat is good if you do want to cook them), and a salad will moisten them up to perfection.
The mild but creamy flavor of bagels is perfect in bread pudding. I prefer to use my bagels for sweet bread pudding, because who doesn't love sugar plus bagels? While we're on the subject, bagel French toast is a dream come true.
Really, any stale bread makes wonderful bread crumbs, and bagels are certainly no exception to the rule.
After cranberry sauce, stuffing is my favorite part of a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. Yet, it's almost only served at Thanksgiving or Christmas! I take stale bagels as a sign from the bagel and stuffing gods that it's time to make some comfort food goodness. Check out this how-to by From Away for everything bagel and bacon stuffing (adapted from a recipe by Rachel Ray).