I’m certainly not the first person to extol the wonders of homemade breadcrumbs. I’m not sure exactly who can take credit for that…probably the frugal and clever wife of a baker with many stale loaves of bread lying around the house. But lately, if you cruise through any number of excellent cookbooks, it seems that breadcrumbs have become the hot new thing. And for obvious reasons: they’re a great way to use up stale bread, they’re easy to make (tear them by hand or whir them in the food processor), they’re better than store bought, they can be stored in a ziploc bag for weeks in the freezer, and they’re so good for using in so many ways.
Now sometimes I do happen to have a stale loaf of bread lying around, or sometimes I just buy two loaves (and this needs to be a fresh bread from your oven or bakery, not the preservative laden squishy kind in a baggie) like a ciabatta or any nice round rustic loaf, as long as there are no nuts or seeds, or something like a baguette that gets hard fast and might be too crusty. If I’m making rough, crouton sized breadcrumbs I will tear them by hand or use a serrated knife for cutting cubes. But if I want fine crumbs for breading chicken cutlets, sprinkling on soup and pasta, or to top stuffed tomatoes or other roasted vegetables, I use the food processor.
Occasionally, I will just let the crumbs dry out in the oven overnight on a sheet pan. Or if you need them sooner, you can spread them out on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 250 for an hour or so. Or, if you want them to be more flavorful, mix them with either a combination of olive oil, salt, and pepper/melted butter and olive oil and salt and pepper/maybe add some minced garlic or garlic salt or good dried oregano if you want to capture that 4Seasons Italian-style crumb. For this I put the oven on at 375 so the breadcrumbs toast much faster, I put them in for about 10 minutes then take them out, toss them around a bit with a wooden spoon to get the bottom crumbs to the top, rotate the pan, and then put back in for another 5 minutes or less, just until golden brown.