I make bread crumbs two ways, to serve two different purposes.  Fresh bread crumbs act as a binder in things like meatballs and are used for breading and frying.  Toasted bread crumbs make a crunchy topping for gratins and add texture to simple pasta dishes.


Fresh bread crumbs

You can make bread crumbs out of pretty much any stale bread you have on hand – white or wheat, a crusty baguette, a soft, sweet sandwich loaf, or even pita.  Finely textured white breads are best for fresh crumbs;  for toasted crumbs, I use a denser, heartier loaf.  Cut off the crust if it is very hard or dense or if you want finer, more even crumbs.  For coarser, rustic crumbs, leave it on.  Tear or dice the bread into pieces and toss into the food processor.  Pulse until crumbs are desired size and texture.  Fresh bread crumbs keep well in the freezer.

Toasted bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, toss fresh bread crumbs with a pinch of sea salt and just enough olive oil to lightly coat (two or three teaspoons per cup of crumbs will do it).  Spread on a baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until lightly and evenly browned, about 10-12 minutes.  Let cool on tray and transfer to an airtight container.  Store at room temperature.

Make it gluten-free: Use a gluten-free bread or — better yet — waffles!  Their toasty flavor and super crispness make them ideal for bread crumbs.