Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Crumby Post about Two Crummy Loaves of Bread (or, Homemade Breadcrumb How-to)

Talking on the phone and putting a couple loaves of bread into the oven (while keeping a busy one-year-old away from said hot oven) at the same time doesn't work. At least not for me. Those two lovely loaves of bread that rose to the near-perfect height slipped from my hands and went crashing onto the open oven door.

The result were two loaves of weird-looking, very compact bread. I contemplated just throwing the loaves in the trash, a sort of cathartic act for my already frustrating day. Instead, I left them on the countertop, mashed and broken until the end of the day when I was ready to deal with them again.

When life gives you crummy bread, make breadcrumbs.

It seems a sort of postmodern thing to explain how to make breadcrumbs. No doubt my great-grandmother would have laughed at the idea of people buying pre-made breadcrumbs at the store. But I used to buy them. Regularly, in fact.

Making breadcrumbs yourself, though, is really the way to go. And you don't have to have full loaves of crappy-looking bread to make them. My mom taught me an easy tip that she has always used to homemade breadcrumbs: whenever she has bread that has gone stale (like old hamburger or hot dog buns) or whenever only the ends of the bread are left (my husband is the only person I know who actually likes eating a sandwich made from the ends of the bread), she keeps it in a bag in the freezer. Once she's got a good amount, she turns them into crumbs.

Here's how to do it:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Chop the bread into workable chunks -- not too big, but not too small (no need to dice them or anything). This step should only take like a minute or so. If you're using slices of bread or old buns, skip the chopping part and just rip them in half (or quarters, depending on the size).

Put the bread into a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are the size and uniformity you prefer. Some people use the grater attachment, but I prefer using the blade.

Spread the crumbs on an ungreased baking sheet (it doesn't have to be a single layer). I used two baking sheets, putting about a loaf's worth of crumbs on each.

Bake the breadcrumbs 20-25 minutes, checking on them every so often (like every 5-10 minutes). When you check, give them a quick stir around the baking sheet. The breadcrumbs are done baking when they're browned and dried. After I've taken them out of the oven, I like to run my hands over the breadcrumbs to check if they've all dried -- if you come across parts that still feel soft, pop the sheet back into the oven for a few minutes and keep an eye on it.

That's it: breadcrumbs for all your cooking/baking needs! If you want your crumbs to be even finer or more uniform (as you can see, mine vary in size), just run them through the food processor again. You can also season them at this point, too, if you like. I keep mine plain so they're more versatile.

I store mine (once they've cooled) in a plastic zipper bag in the freezer. They'll keep for a while in there, around six months or so.

And, with that, the frustration of failed loaves of bread are forgotten. All's well that ends well.

{This post is linked to Your Green Resource}


Anonymous said...

Growing up, we always had a cake pan in the oven - whenever we started or finished a loaf of bread, the crusts would be thrown into the pan in the oven.

When we used the oven, once the oven was turned off, the cake pan was put back in the oven so that the bread heels would toast a bit.

Once the pan filled up, and was all dried out, we would run the dried bread slices through the food processor and add them to an old coffee can in the cupboard.

Heather said...

I love this idea! I'm keeping a pan in my oven now. Thanks for the great tip!

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