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Use your food processor to make dry breadcrumbs. Leave the leftover
bread in an uncovered container until it has completely dried.
Keeping the bread uncovered will prevent it from becoming moldy and
unusable. Before grinding the bread into crumbs, check that it’s
completely dry. Bread that’s brittle on the outside with a soft spot
in the center may cause the blade of your food processor to jam – a
good way to burn out the motor. It’s a good idea to break the bread
into smaller pieces before grinding it.
Put the pieces of dried bread into the work bowl of the food
processor and grind it into even crumbs. A steel blade will produce
coarse crumbs, while the grating blade will yield fairly fine crumbs.
If you prefer very fine breadcrumbs, grate the bread first and then
pass the crumbs through a colander. If you don’t have a food
processor, a box grated will work, though this method is obviously a
lot slower. Store your dry crumbs in an airtight plastic container or
zip-lock bag. They’ll stay fresh for up to 2 weeks.
Dry breadcrumbs are perfect for recipes such as casseroles or broiled
fish, where a crisp, brown crust will seal in juices. Adding some
chopped herbs or grated lemon zest to dry breadcrumbs makes a perfect
coating for saut?ed chicken breasts. However, dry breadcrumbs aren’t
for every recipe.
Fresh breadcrumbs are great for lighter coating and softer crusts.
They’re supposed to be somewhat moist, so you don’t have to wait too
long for the bread to dry, but beware of bread that’s too soft – it
tends to clump into balls instead of separating into crumbs. Let the
bread become slightly stale before loading it into your food
processor. If the bread has a thick crust, remove it before grating
so that the crumbs stay uniform in size and flavor. Like dry crumbs,
fresh crumbs are a perfect carrier for fresh herbs, citrus zest, and
other seasonings. Fresh crumbs should be used the same day you make
them; otherwise they turn into dry breadcrumbs.
Good homemade croutons, which are almost as easy to make as
breadcrumbs, can add immeasurably to soups and salads.
Simply cut the breads into cubes or rounds; the size and shape of the
croutons depends on how you plan to use them. Rustic cubes are
perfect for Caesar salad, while small, precise croutons can garnish
an elegant soup. Pour the soup pn top of the crouton, so it soften
and thickens the soup, or float the toasted round on the soup’s
surface. Remember to make the croutons a uniform size and shape;
otherwise they won’t cook evenly.
Toss or brush the bread with a bit of melted butter or olive oil, and
season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and herbs
if you want more flavor, or toss them with some Parmesan cheese.
Spread the cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a 350?F
oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Watch them carefully; they
burn easily. If your croutons are large, you’ll probably want to flip
them over halfway through baking so they’ll brown evenly on all
sides. Use the croutons right away, or cool them thoroughly and them
store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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