Bread Crumbs: Hansel and Gretel used them as a way to mark their return route (resourceful but not particularly effective … one smart chipmunk and all that effort is wasted); children and adults alike are entertained by feeding them to birds; and apparently, they aid us as internet users to identify where we are and where we have been on the web.
But what is the true purpose of bread crumbs?
A lot of people hear the word “meatball” and instantly feel like yawning. Not me. My first thought is “What kind of meatballs?” I have seen how hamburgers have become the latest craze for creativity. What is a meatball but a ground up burger, bun and all? Why shouldn’t it be as trendy as its cousin?
Occasionally, rice or oatmeal will be used in meatball recipes, but most frequently, it is bread crumbs. Combined with eggs and milk, the bread crumbs act as the binding agent. What I do hope to make clear is something I just learned while making Cuban Meatballs for my post earlier this week.
Bread crumbs can almost always be found in my freezer. They are usually homemade from bread that has gone a bit stale, leftover garlic bread, or the heels of a loaf that no one wants to eat. Sometimes, I buy bread crumbs for a recipe if I don’t have any on hand and then freeze the leftover crumbs to keep them fresh.
Opening the container of purchased bread crumbs, I saw that I had picked one that was labeled “fine”. They weren’t the flaky type I usually use, but had more of a granular texture. No big deal. They are bread crumbs. I measured them out, made the meatballs and they were delicious; but they were dense.
Written this way, I realize it sounds obvious and you might be rolling your eyes and thinking “great discovery, Einstein”. It’s not like I was trying to write a blog on this subject. I just didn’t realize how big of a difference the texture of the bread crumbs would make on the texture and size of the meatballs. Using more dense crumbs means more will fit in the measuring cup and take leave less room in the meat mixture for “air”.
The point of this is not that one type of bread crumbs is better than another. The point is you can change the texture of the meatball by the type of bread crumbs you use.
FOOD TIP: If you like a denser meatball, use fine bread crumbs.
For a lighter, softer meatball, use flaky-style bread crumbs (like Panko) or make your own.
Make Your Own Bread Crumbs
Tear leftover bread or buns into cubes and place on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on the cupboard and allow the bread to dry out for 2-3 hours. Place cubes in a food processor (do this in batches rather than overcrowding the bowl) and pulse until the cubes are evenly sized crumbs. Store the bread crumbs in a resealable baggie or airtight container in the freezer. If you want to season the breadcrumbs, add dried herb and/or spices to food processor right before pulsing.
Don’t have 2-3 hours? Toast the slices of bread and allow to cool completely. Continue with the food processing instructions.
Food for Thought
Is it any wonder that in this technology-driven era, the foodie culture is also booming? Do you suppose it has anything to do with the changing definition of words like:
That darn subliminal messaging … now I’m hungry for apples … and cookies!
Funny … still not hungry for SPAM.
But maybe … SPAM meatballs?