Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest. Luckily she's also sharing her experiences with Whole Story readers by demystifing essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. First up, how to make fresh and dry bread crumbs.
Many comfort foods -- mac and cheese, stuffed mushrooms, chicken fingers, meatloaf -- call for bread crumbs. They add crunch and body to myriad dishes and almost magically bind ingredients together. Breadcrumbs can easily be made from scratch with a few slices of bread. So if you’ve got a neglected loaf lounging in the cupboard or loitering in the fridge, why not transform it into itty-bitty bits that you can freeze and mix into crab cakes or pat on pork chops whenever the moment feels right?
Bread crumbs can be spun out of any type of bread. If you like earthy tones, make them with whole wheat. If you desire a bit of tang, experiment with sourdough. Dig something hardier? Use a few pieces of rye. Nuts, dried fruits, olives, and other chunky ingredients can be hard to grind into very fine pieces, so it’s best to use breads like cinnamon-raisin and 12-grain for stuffing or croutons, not bread crumbs.
How to Make Fresh Bread Crumbs
Fresh bread, which is cushy, does not process well, so use bread that is stale or that has been intentionally left out to dry.
Pull each slice of bread apart into one- to two-inch pieces. If the bread has a thick crust, separate the crust from the soft center and set the crust aside. The crust takes longer to grind and it’s best to process it separately.
Place the torn pieces in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pulverized. Pour crumbs into a bowl.
Tear apart the crust and place the pieces in the bowl of the food processor. Process until they are ground into fine pieces.
If you want to flavor the bread crumbs, add both sets of bread crumbs back into the bowl of the food processor. Add dried herbs or spices to taste, and pulse until they are well distributed. Otherwise, mix the two sets of bread crumbs together in a large bowl. Use fresh bread crumbs immediately or store in an airtight container.
How to Make Dry Bread Crumbs
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pull bread apart into one- to two-inch pieces and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake bread pieces until the bread is completely dried out and brittle when squeezed (timing will vary according to the freshness of the bread and size of torn bread pieces). Cool completely.
Place the baked bread pieces in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until ground into fine crumbs.
For extra-crunchy bread crumbs, return the bread crumbs to the oven on the baking sheet and bake briefly until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
I’d love to see your tips for making fresh or dry bread crumbs! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.
Photos by Susan Pachikara.