Bread in Cooking

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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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This is an extensive subject that E. S. Dallas (1877) thought the English well equipped to address: ‘the best bread for cooking purposes is known in the French kitchen as pain Anglais—it is the English pan loaf.’

Bread may be used as crumbs, dried or soft; entire, as either a loaf or a slice; or as small pieces cut off a larger slice.

When breadcrumbs are dried, they may consist of the raspings of a crust. When bread was baked in ovens with only approximate temperature controls, or was cooked over very long periods of time, it often had crusts that were too hard, or too thick and tough. A bread rasp, therefore, to thin or remove the crust, was essential kitchen equipment. ‘French’ breads in English 18th-century recipes were invariably rasped. More refined dried crumbs are made with crustless slices dried out in the oven before pounding. Hard crumbs obtained in these ways could be used to coat foods for frying, as in ‘egged and crumbed’, or spread on a dish before browning under a grill or in a hot oven. The gratin crust benefits from absorption of the juices from below and fats such as butter or cheese placed on top by the cook.