I hate wasting my home-baked sourdough. Of course, I try to make sure it all gets eaten when it’s at its best, but sometimes life interferes with your best laid plans, and you’re going away for the weekend with a third of a loaf still sat on the side, or the last roll in the batch is looking a bit dry to be appetising. So when it looks like there’s some good bread about to go to waste, I chuck it in a bag in the freezer.
Breadcrumbs are such a useful store cupboard staple. At Christmas especially, they go into stuffings, and Christmas puddings, as a crunchy topping for fish pie… I’m going to need some in a few days when I make my batch of Christmas sausages. And the shop bought kind contain all sorts of preservatives, stabilisers, and even, believe it or not, yellow food dye for that ‘golden’ crumb! Yuck!
It’s so easy to make your own. Slice up your bread into normal-thickness slices (about 1cm / half an inch) before you put it in the freezer. Once you have enough for a batch, get them out of the freezer and lay them out on a baking sheet. Put them in a low oven at about 125 – 150 C. After about an hour, get them out and carefully break them up as much as you can (don’t burn your fingers!), before returning them to the oven until they’re thoroughly dry and crispy.
They’ll take on a little colour around the edges, but don’t let them burn! I’ve seen advice to cut the crusts off and not use end pieces for breadcrumbs, because they’ll tend to take on more colour during the drying process and you don’t want this. Since that’s most of what I usually have left over, I’ve just ignored this advice, with no ill-effect that I can detect! Once they’re completely dry, take them out of the oven and wait for them to cool fully.
I’ve made the mistake of trying to put these straight in my food processor – they’re really quite hard and it doesn’t work very well! You might be able to get away with it if your breadcrumbs are being made from ‘white fluff’ commercial sliced bread, but with real sourdough there’s quite a lot of substance to your bread, and the pieces just seem to bounce around the bowl. Start by transferring the crusty chunks in batches into a large freezer bag, and crunching them up with a heavy rolling pin (a heavy skillet or saucepan would work well, too!).
You could just keep crushing the crumbs by hand until you get the finish you want, but if you’re lazy, like me, and have access to a food processor, then you can transfer the chunks to that once they’re all well under a cm in size, and then process them until they’re the texture you’re after. I’ve left some bigger pieces in here for texture (if I want finer crumbs later I can always sift them through a collander before use), but you can keep going until it’s the consistency of sand if you prefer.
Now just transfer your breadcrumbs to an airtight container, where they should happily store at room temperature for at least a couple of weeks – this is assuming you’ve dried them properly – moisture is your enemy! If you want to keep them longer, put them into to a sealed bag and store in the freezer, where they should be fine for 2 – 3 months. If in doubt, watch out for any signs of mould or musty smells. If they do start to go off, Hubby – who was my glamorous assistant this evening – asked me to remind you that they’ll still do fine for ground bait for any fisherman or woman in your family!
It’s the 12th of December today, which means we’re now half way through my Blog Advent challenge! I’m exhausted, but really enjoying it too! Thank you all so much for reading along so far – I hope I can come up with another dozen days worth!
I’m trying to write a post a day during Advent, so, please come along with me while I try to Blog Advent – the Country Skills Way – and forgive me if I don’t quite manage it!
Read more from the Country Skills blog >>