proudsomewhat troubled to admit that I had a marathon of bread baking this weekend. In truth, it might be more troubling to admit that it was in honor of The Hunger Games coming out on video. Have you seen it? It's amazing. I loved the books, loved the movie, and I am now one of those people eagerly awaiting the casting of Finnick (please be someone fantastic!). Yes, I am 30 years old and I love The Hunger Games. Okay, I will ease up on the HG talk for the rest of the story.
Let me start again. Hang on tight for there is a rapid subject turn in your future: It feels great - and very pioneer-y of me - to use everything in my kitchen to it's fullest potential. For me this has been a summer of conservation. Back in April, I started a compost bin as a way of redirecting fruit and vegetable scraps from our kitchen to a more environmentally friendly end. I also began cutting back on the staggering amount of paper towels that I used everyday (I am seriously embarrassed looking back), choosing instead to use fabric napkins and kitchen towels. To keep the momentum going, I started storing all the ends and bits of bread that had begun to go stale. You know the kind. The pieces that will sit for several days, having everyone pass them by just to have you through them away in the end. Anytime I had a new heel, into the freezer bag it went. And after my bread baking marathon, I finally had enough 'crusty ends' to make up a batch of breadcrumbs. I am going to share my method of making breadcrumbs with you. I call this a method more than a recipe because there are no exact types or amounts of bread that must be used. Use what you have. Homemade or store bought. It really doesn't matter. The bread crumbs will turn out delicious, crunchy and ready to be used in endless recipes. Also as a general rule, I prefer to keep my crumbs plain and season them when it comes to using them in any given recipe.
First, gather the bread you will be using to chop into crumbs. I store my ends in a bag in the freezer until I have 'enough' or until I am in the mood to make some crumbs. Now if your bread is frozen, allow it to sit out and defrost for a bit before putting through the food processor. For extremely crusty bread, use the shredding disc on your food processor to create the crumbs. The thick crust is usually too much for the chopping blade to break down, and bread can get stuck on your blade. If you have a softer bread (white sandwich loaf) the chopping blade will work.
Spread your newly formed crumbs out onto a baking sheet. The crumbs can be a variety of sizes (I enjoy a coarse crumb). Bake your crumbs in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until completely dry and toasted but not burnt. If you have a thick layer of crumbs you may want to bake them for a bit longer. If you have a thin layer of crumbs, bake them for a shorter amount of time.
When the crumbs are toasted, allow them to cool. If you desire a finer crumb, send them through your food processor again using your chopping blade. I left half of my crumbs coarse - for use in topping casseroles and mac & cheese - and processed the second half into fine crumbs for use in meatballs and meat loaf. Any shaped meat, really. Store them in bags or freezer safe containers in the freezer for up to 6 months. The crumbs can be used directly out of the freezer. Now that you see how easy (and thrifty) this is I hope you are inspired to give it a whirl. Get it? A whirl in the processor?