Gift Guide, Day 25

December 22, 2010

Home Made Bread Crumbs:

A couple of years ago Kempy Minifie, who was running Gourmet’s test kitchen, gave me a container filled with homemade bread crumbs for Christmas.  “This,” I thought to myself, “is a really dopey present. I can make my own crumbs any time I want them.”  But I took them home and stored them in my freezer anyway.

One day, about a month later, I reached in and found they were gone:  I had used them all up. I instantly made some more, and since then my freezer has never been without a supply of good crisp, oily, crumbs.  They’re as essential as chicken stock, a wonderful fall-back ingredient that adds flavor and texture to many dishes.  I use them on pasta, in casseroles, to top vegetables. I’d be grateful to anyone who offered me some.

And they’re easy to make. 

Cut a good loaf of stale bread into cubes and grind it into crumbs in a blender or a food processor.  (A blender is better; it gives you a more uniform texture).  If your bread is not stale enough to crumb, you can dry the cubes out in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes before grinding.

Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they are crisp and golden.  Drizzle with olive oil (about a quarter cup for every 2 cups of crumbs), season with salt and allow to cool completely before putting into containers.

These will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely.  Just stick them in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off.

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  • Lynn McBride says:

    This is my idea of the perfect gift! I used to keep crumbs languishing in the freezer, but recently I’ve been putting them on everything. Especially swirled in a little butter in my black skillet, they really perk things up. There great on top of a simple pasta with lemon, and of course on gratins, mixed with a little cheese, which I put on my baked garlic grits. Now I’ll tie them up with a bow for friends, with a recipe or two. Merci and Joyeux Noel, from a huge fan—Lynn at Southern Fried French

  • I have a friend who even saves the crumbs from her breadboard when she slices bread (I keep meaning to get in that habit). Breadcrumbs are also versatile enough to make dessert– cook them in a bit of butter and sugar and then fold into homemade applesauce (or any other fruit) and top with a little whipped cream. Couldn’t live without the breadcrumbs in my freezer.

  • I, too, keep a running supply of homemade breadcrumbs that I make from assorted baguettes left over from meals. I find a mixture of various sources adds to the quality. So thanks for sharing this tip. But I must add another comment too. I am astonished that someone as allegedly well-versed in food and all its facets, including entertaining and hospitality, would be disappointed by a gift such as this. What did you think you deserved? Iranian Imperial Golden Osetra caviar? A white truffle? You probably got that and then some from your various advertisers and courtiers when you were you the Big Cheese and understandably came to expect the corporate largesse as your due. Gifts that anyone with position or expense account could offer. So it is also understandable you would not recognize the specialness of a homemade gift and also what it represents: the time invested by the giver; the respect it shows for your time, and the time it took to develop the skill to make something so humble so ineffably delicious. May I recommend you go back to reread some great food writers such as MFK Fisher or Laurie Colwin to reacquaint yourself with the how these gifts satisfy the soul as well as the belly. You might also discover what joy there is in dispensing gratitude and credit, particularly if you treat them as more than crumbs from your table.

  • Melissa Dow says:

    Ms. Barnard: Keep the negativity to yourself. Don’t be a troll. We all thank you.