I love bread, but I don’t purchase it often. Sometimes, I get a little ambitious and make it myself. Other times, I do end up purchasing fresh bread, only to end up with unwanted scraps, end pieces, and extra hunks or slices that wind up getting stale. When you’re buy a one-pound loaf for two people, there’s just not much hope of going through it all within the first 24 hours while it’s still fresh. These sad, neglected bits of bread are the inevitable result.
As part of my ongoing effort to waste less food by finding new ways to use every edible item I buy (even the ones that have seen better days), I started shoving bread into the freezer, promising myself that I would decide what to do with it later. A few months and a freezer bag full of unloved bread scraps later, I decided to make bread crumbs.
When I decided to make my own bread crumbs, I initially flip-flopped over whether to season them. I decided against seasoning for a few reasons. First, it doesn’t take more than 30 seconds to add seasonings to already-made bread crumbs. Second, I couldn’t decide what seasonings to use, as I was making a fairly large bag full of crumbs and didn’t know which dishes I would use them in yet. Third, it’s much tastier and more fun to customize the seasoning to the particular recipe you’re making and (again) that takes little to no time and effort.
I also decided against tossing them in oil because I usually mix them with onions caramelized in oil or drizzle them with olive oil or melted butter anyway; no extra oil needed at this as-yet-unseasoned stage.
Next time you find yourself with an extra scrap of bread here and there, you’ve got a few options. If still fresh, you can either toast the bread, let it go stale, or throw it in a freezer bag for toasting once you’ve accumulated more scraps. Either way, store the fresh or stale bread in the freezer until you have several cups’ worth.
Before turning the scraps into crumbs via food processor, you’ll want to chop or break the bread into half inch to one inch chunks so they process evenly. Then pulse away in the food processor until the bread crumbs are as coarsely or finely ground as you wish them to be. Pour them back into the plastic bag and shove them into the freezer for bread crumbs that can be used over several months and custom seasoned according to each dish.
Basic Unseasoned Bread Crumbs
Makes 3 cups
6 c. bread scraps (fresh or already toasted/stale)
If using fresh or frozen-when-fresh bread scraps, preheat oven to 400F. Lay bread scraps in one layer on a baking sheet, and toast 7 to 10 minutes until toasted.
Break toasted or stale bread scraps into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces as you transfer them from the baking sheet to a food processor. Process until finely ground. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for use within one week or in freezer for long term use.