Toasting Bread Crumbs

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Bread crumbs are as vital to many Italian dishes as mortar is to bricklaying. Crumbs are applied to the surface of food, as in a cutlet milanese, or added to a marinade, like the one used on the Adriatic when grilling fish, or mixed into a meat loaf: They are there to absorb excess moisture and to retain the appropriate amount of butter, oil, or other cooking fat.

If crumbs are too soft, they do not produce ideal results because they become soggy and pasty. To obtain fine texture and correct absorption quality from crumbs, I prepare them as follows:
  • In a tin box I store any leftover non-sweet white bread, provided it has no extraneous flavors, such as those of herbs or seeds. When I have enough bread available, and time, I cut it into 1-inch pieces, then grind it in the food processor.
  • I pass the crumbs through a strainer with not too fine a mesh.
  • I put about 1 cup of crumbs in a medium-size skillet with a heavy bottom and turn on the heat to medium. I move the crumbs around frequently, bringing to the top the ones on the bottom, until they all become colored a light nut brown.
  • I transfer the toasted crumbs to a large baking sheet and spread them out. I repeat the procedure with the rest of the crumbs, in batches of 1 cup.
  • When the crumbs have cooled completely and all moisture has evaporated, I store them in a jar to use as needed.