If your kids and household are anything like mine, you probably have a bunch of stale food lying around your kitchen. Bread that was left unwrapped overnight that’s turned hard; the chocolate donuts they had to buy, only to realize that they only wanted one or two, and now the rest have been sitting on the counter for a week; a loaf of spicy seasoned bread sticks that you just can’t possibly finish… well, this was our case this week. And I wanted to share with you an easy way to make use of all that stale food without having to throw it away.
Homemade bread crumbs are a great pantry staple to have around. I use bread crumbs quite often in cooking and baking. From making crusts to dredging, or even just adding a little crunch in a casserole, there are countless uses for them. Boxes of bread crumbs sometimes go for $3 or $4 bucks at the grocery store! That’s easy money saved, considering how simple it is to make.
First things first: you don’t want to use moldy bread. So if you notice that you have bread that’s starting to get old that you won’t be using, either pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to make bread crumbs or take it out of its packaging to dry out. Mold forms in the presence of moisture, so removing it from its bag or whatever it’s being stored in and exposing it to air will help stop the mold from forming.
When you’re ready to make your bread crumbs, go ahead and bring out all that stale bread. If you’re making a lot and have different flavors (for example, I didn’t want to mix up the chocolate donuts with the spicy breadsticks), separate them out. Basic breads can all be lumped together (like bagels, croissants, sandwich bread, etc). Then break them into large pieces and pulverize them in a blender or food processor. Once this is done, spread it out onto a large baking sheet. Stick into the oven that’s heated at about 200 degrees.
I can’t give you a precise time on how long to cook them, because it will depend on how many bread crumbs you have and how fine they’ve been pulverized. I can estimate though that it usually takes me around an hour to an hour and a half for a full pan. You’ll also want to stir the edges occasionally, which tend to cook faster than the middle section. I usually go by smell and sight to decide when the bread crumbs are finished. They will smell fragrant and they will be lightly browned. I know this is terribly un-precise, but as long as you’re not burning them, there’s no one particular way to make them. Basically, you are toasting them to bring out the flavor and making certain that you’ve removed any last moisture.
After the bread crumbs have finished cooking, pour them into a large shallow bowl and leave them on the counter to cool. It’s very important that they are completely cooled before you move them to your storage container. Any heat will condense on the top of your storage container if you put them in while warm, and the moisture can cause mold, so don’t skip this important step! Once they are completely cool, go ahead in put them in an airtight container. It’s never a bad idea to leave the containers out on the counter overnight and check the lids in the morning the next day to make absolutely certain that there’s no liquid on the inside. After you’ve double checked that, your bread crumbs are ready to be stored in a cool, dry place until next time you need them for a recipe!
Dried bread crumbs, properly made and stored, will last at least a year, and probably further. If you live in a hot and humid area, you might want to consider storing them in the freezer, or at least checking occasionally for any kind of moisture.
Also, I want to note that this can be made with gluten-free bread as well to save you from having to spend the extra money on gluten-free bread crumbs.
So, now I have no more guilt when we have bread ends or other stale bread that no one will eat! Instead of throwing them away, it’s easy to store them for future use and save money in the process. I think I’m going to use the chocolate donut crumbs to make a chocolate pie crust. And the spicy ones I might use to make a Mexican bean burger. Yum, there are so many delicious options. I’m off to start cooking!