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DIY: Homemade Seasoned Dried Bread Crumbs, Plus Italian-Style Bread Crumb RecipeBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Making your own seasoned bread crumbs isn't rocket science.
It's super simple and much more economical than anything you buy from the grocery store pre-made (often with a few mystery ingredients thrown in). Making a big batch of your own bread crumbs is so easy, it's surprising that anyone actually buys pre-made bread crumbs — the price markup is staggering. Homemade is cheaper, fresher, healthier, and usually tastes far better.
Even some of the most thrift-minded of people these days don't make their own bread crumbs because, frankly, they probably never thought about it. Perhaps their own mothers or grandmothers didn't make them. But for centuries, homemakers did not have pre-made bread crumbs available at the corner general store or open market place. They made their own, as they made so many other things for family meals and for the home.
Bread crumbs are an imperative to have on hand in your pantry when coating chicken pieces or fish or pork for a "shake 'n bake" entrée, for sprinkling over homebaked macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes, and other casserole toppings, mixed into meat loaves or meatballs, ground turkey patties, economical bread puddings, and many other dishes.
Dried out bread for homemade bread crumbs is OK to use, although fresh bread is usually better. Using very old stale bread, however, will taste stale, so don't use stale bread that has an "off" or icky foul odor. Stale bread could ruin the flavor of anything in which you use the crumbs.
I recently checked out the General Mills website. The price for a 2-pack of Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs (24.00 oz.), at the time of this writing, was $6.74 USD for the 2-pack (or $3.37 USD each). For bread crumbs, for crikey sake. Sodium content per serving is estimated at a whopping 470 mg (20% of daily value) and the product contains a number of mysterious ingredients, including calcium propionate and potassium sorbate as preservatives. A 12-pack of Old London Seasoned Bread Crumbs (the 10-ounce size) currently costs $29.19 USD at Walmart, which is about $2.50 for one container. That breaks down to about 25 cents per ounce of bread crumbs in a 10-ounce package, or $4.00 a pound — more than the price per pound for chicken, many cuts of pork, grains, fruits, vegetables, and a number of fishes.
For bread crumbs.
Make a big batch when you're making crumbs. It takes about the same amount of time to make a big batch as it takes to make a small one, so making a big batch is a time saver. You can store dried out bread slice ends in the fridge or freezer until you have enough for a batch. However, be sure that if you store ends or slices in the fridge or freezer you let them air thaw and/or dry out before making into crumbs. If there's any moisture from the ice crystals in the freezer or moisture absorbed from the refrigerator, the bread will be somewhat soggy when making the bread crumbs. Bread used must be totally dry.
To make a batch of coarse bread crumbs from fresh bread, you can speed up the drying by baking slices of bread in the oven. Put the bread pieces in a single layer (any kind of bread can be used, depending on what dishes they will be included in) in a moderately hot oven (250 to 300 deg. F is good — you want to dry out and crisp up the bread, not actually cook it). You can also just lay the slices out on a cutting board or baking sheet in the morning and they should be dried out to perfection by evening (like before and after you go to work).
Italian or French bread slices are great to use for Italian seasoned bread crumbs, multi-grain wheat bread is excellent for crumbs that will be used in hearty dishes. Pumpernickel, onion-flavored breads, and Jewish rye have strong, distinctive flavors, but can be used as a topping on bland dishes or casseroles for a flavor pick-me-up. Hardened bagels can be used, as well as hardened muffins (a cheese grater does a great job of turning these into crumbs). Dried challah lends a sweeter, more delicate flavor to dishes. Experiment to find out what your taste buds (and your family's) like. You can even mix like-flavored breads.
If you're using the oven to dry out the bread, keep the slices in the oven until they're crisp.
Remove from the oven and in a bowl, add and mix your choice of seasonings, such as dried oregano, basil, parsley, paprika, onion, garlic powder, dill weed, or whatever you have on hand. For spicy Mexican dishes, adding a teaspoon or two of chili powder gives a real kick.
Or, don't add any herbs and seasonings now, but save the bread crumbs plain. Add the herbs and spices on a per-need basis. Your call.
Home cooks have been making their own bread crumbs for centuries, long before electric appliances were available, so there are several methods you can use to make the crumbs. None of them are difficult.
Break the dried bread slices into manageable pieces. You can blend/chop the bread and seasonings in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds at a low pulse (it doesn't take long to bread down the bread — be careful to not pulverize the dried bread to dust). Cleanup of the food processor will add to your time, of course.
If you don't have a food processor (or don't want to haul it out and then have to clean it just for using it for a minute or two to make bread crumbs), you can place the dried bread slices between two sheets of waxed paper and use a rolling pin to roll over and break down the dried slices to the size crumbs you want. A coffee bean grinder can also be used, or any heavy object (like a can of vegetables or small kitchen mallet) to carefully smash the dried bread. A large mortar and pestel also works great.
Leave the finished crumbs out on the counter for a while until they are thoroughly cooled from the oven. You want them to be at room temperature before storing and don't want any steam to be present when you store them, because steam means moisture and moisture is bad for stored bread crumbs. Store the finished bread crumbs in an airtight container or ziploc bag. Keep in a cool, dark place. Done!
Making your own bread crumbs will be devoid of artificial flavors and chemicals & much more flavorful and natural. You can further customize your bread crumbs for what you are breading by using different types of bread. If you want a lighter consistency of bread crumbs, don't use the crusts.
I've made a few batches of homemade bread that were much heavier than my family liked. Turning the heavy bread into seasoned bread crumbs saved money and didn't waste my failed creation.
Here's a recipe I found at The Secret Recipe Forum for a 1-cup, homemade batch of your own cheap, copy-cat Progresso Italian-Style Bread Crumbs.
I've added 1 tablespoon dried, grated Parmesan cheese to the original recipe to more closely match the flavor of the store-bought version, since the ingredient content on the Progresso container lists nonfat-dry milk, buttermilk, and "natural flavor" (whatever the heck that is), as well as several mystery ingredients.
See how easy it is to make your own and save money? When financial times are tough, every dollar saved is crucial.
Homemade Progresso Italian-Style Bread Crumbs
- 1 c. plain bread crumbs
- 1 T. dried, grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. salt (you can decrease or omit this, since Progresso's salt content is high)
- 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. onion powder
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- Dash of oregano
Measure out all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir and mix until all the ingredients are completely blended into a consistent mixture.
The bread crumb mixture is ready to be used at this point, just as you would use store-bought crumbs. Or, transfer the batch to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place until you need to use it.
Makes 1 cup.
Here's a baked fish recipe using your homemade Italian-style bread crumbs:
- 1 lb halibut, cod, haddock, or other firm-texture fish fillets (about 3/4 inch thick), cut into 4 serving pieces
- 2 T. reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 2 T. Italian-style bread crumbs
- 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
- Lemon wedges, if desired
Heat oven to 450°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan with foil; spray with cooking spray. Place fish fillets in pan.
In small bowl, stir mayonnaise, lemon peel, and pepper until blended. Spread over top of each fillet. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Spoon evenly over mayonnaise mixture; pat crumb mixture lightly into mayonnaise.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Serve with lemon wedges.
You can substitute salmon for the haddock and reap the benefits of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Source: General Mills website
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Cheap Eats, "Homemade Bread Crumbs," (http://www.bloglander.com/cheapeats/2005/10/03/making-homemade-bread-crumbs/).
General Mills website (http://www.generalmills.com/Home/Brands/Soup/Progresso/Brand%20Product%20List%20Page.aspx).
Prima Fiesta website, "Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs," (http://18.104.22.168/recipes/antipasta/seasonedbreadcrumbs.htm).
The Secret Recipe Forum, "Progresso Italian-Style Bread Crumbs," (http://www.recipesecrets.net/forums/recipe-exchange/521-progresso-italian-style-bread-crumbs.html).