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Bread Crumbs

A basic ingredient.

I will write more about toast and toasting and having toasted, but a common use for stale bread is to make bread crumbs with it. And now, because everyone is panko this and panko that, I'll tell you how to do that too--and 'splain you why you'd want to.

I may have gawped at someone in my office last week when she wasn't sure whether she had a food processor. "CuisinArt?" I said. "You press a button, and it whizzes things?" I recommended she stick to Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust until she figures out whether this appliance lives at her house.

A food processor makes crumb-making as easy as, um, pie. If you don't have this piece of equipment, well . . . you'll need to make do with putting dry bread cubes into a plastic bag and whacking them with a rolling pin.

First, Crumbs.

Dry bread crumbs are used for coating food that's going to be deep fried or baked. They are often sprinkled on the top of casseroles and baked mac-and-cheese. And they bind ingredients together in recipes like meatloaf and veggie burgers.

 

Occasionally you'll find a recipe that calls for fresh bread crumbs. These are a different creature. For these, you whiz up some fresh bread for the amount you need and carry on. If you have extra, you can freeze them OR dry them out and store them at room temperature in an airtight container (otherwise, mold will come calling).

Recipe: Bread Crumbs 101

  • Heat your oven to 300 degrees F. (If you have to heat someone else's oven, ask permission.)
  • Cut the bread into crouton-sized cubes, about 1 inch, or thin slices. 
  • Strew one-layer deep on a rimmed baking sheet (the better to keep the bread on the sheet).
  • Bake about 10 minutes, until the bread is dry. 
  • Whiz in a food processor until you get fine, even crumbs. No piece should be bigger than half a grain of rice. 
  • If you still feel some moisture in the bread, you can leave them out for a day or so--or turn off the oven, and put the crumbs back in until they're cool and dry.
  • Store in an airtight container. They will keep for months. If you tuck them into the freezer, they'll stay good for at least six months.

Second, Panko.

Panko is a Japanese version of bread crumbs. The bread is shredded into flakes. Panko makes fried food even crunchier than bread crumbs can. TheKitchn.com credits this to panko absorbing less oil.

White panko is made from white bread (big surprise) without the crust. Tan panko is flaked from the whole she-bang. If you know whether this makes a difference in texture, please tell me. I confess to having no idea. I suspect is an appearance difference.

Recipe: Panko 101

  • Heat an oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Using the grating blade in your food processor, whiz up the stale bread you have.
  • Spread it on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, till dry. 
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few months or in the freezer for six months.

If you want to learn more, Cook's Illustrated is always a good reference: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/taste_tests/1449-bread-crumbs.

 

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