Fresh, or soft, bread crumbs and dried bread crumbs begin at the same place. Both are easily made by processing sliced bread in a food processor or blender. Use white bread with a firm crumb, such as a good quality sandwich loaf. Avoid bread with an open, airy crumb or one with a dark crust. Sourdough bread will lend its own tart flavor, so it isn’t the best choice for bread crumbs, which should be neutral. Whether you keep the crust on or off it up to you.
For fresh bread crumbs, tear the fresh bread into pieces about 2 inches square, and process in a food processor or blender until pulverized. Store them in a resealable bag in the freezer for up to 2 months, they do not have to be thawed before using.
For dried bread crumbs, don’t use old, desiccated bread, or you could get off flavors. Instead, toast the sliced fresh bread until it is firm around the edges but not browned. As the bread cools, it will crisp. Process the lightly toasted bread in a food processor or blender until pulverized. Prepare just the amount of bread you need. Dried bread crumbs don’t store well.
You can make bread crumbs out of more than sandwich bread. Croissants, bagels, and rolls can all be turned into crumbs.
Panko are crisp, fluffy Japanese-style bread crumbs and are usually reserved for dishes where an especially crunchy coating is desired. They can be used in any recipe that calls for dried bread crumbs, either as a binder or filler for moist mixtures like meat loaf, or as breading for dishes like crab cakes.
To ensure a crisp crust on foods coated with bread crumbs and baked, spritz the coatings with cooking oil spray (olive or vegetable oil) before they go in the oven, and once again halfway through baking.
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