‘Breadcrumbs’ is a term used to describe several very similar but slightly different ingredients. Breadcrumbs can be fresh or dried, fine, coarse, or ‘panko’. Recipes usually specify which type to use. They can also be made with different kinds of bread, but for a crunchy finish, use bread that isn’t absolutely fresh because it will still have too much moisture in it and the crumbs will clag together.
Fresh breadcrumbs have not been dried and are soft in texture. They are absorbent and swell when soaked in liquid, so they are used to add bulk to recipes such as treacle tart, to act as a binder in meatballs, or fried with other ingredients to absorb their flavours in lightly crispy toppings such as pangrattato and gremolata. They are also the main ingredient in bread sauce.
Dried breadcrumbs are often fine and used to crumb-coat ingredients such as fish, Scotch eggs and croquettes before deep-frying, or sprinkled on top of gratins to both soak up oil and provide a crunchy topping.
Panko breadcrumbs are much flakier and more delicate than ordinary breadcrumbs. They are made with fine white bread that is dried and they turn very crisp when fried. Asian in origin, they’re used for dishes like katsu but are now widely used in Western cooking, too.
How to make breadcrumbs with a food processor
You will need: 2 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed, if you prefer.
1. To make fresh breadcrumbs, tear the bread into pieces and drop it into a food processor fitted with a blade. Whiz the bread in bursts until you have breadcrumbs of the size you want. If you want to make very even crumbs, push them through a coarse sieve.
2. To make dried breadcrumbs, tear the bread up and dry it out in a low oven first, then process it.
Other ways to make breadcrumbs
You can also make dried breadcrumbs by bashing up pieces of dried bread and rolling over the pieces with a rolling pin. You can put them in a plastic bag to do this and they won’t fly everywhere.
Fresh breadcrumbs can be made by cutting the crusts off a loaf then grating the bread on a coarse grater.
Recipes using breadcrumbs
Chicken katsu curry burger
Garlicky linguine with cabbage & anchovy
Apple, cream & spiced rye crumble pots
IPA treacle tart