Saturday, March 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Crumbs can be a cook’s best friend

Crumbs can be a cookís best friend

This preparation shot shows how to use a glass to press crumbs into a piecrust. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

By Judy Hevrdejs, Chicago Tribune

Crumbs deserve respect.

Those morsels of breads, cookies or crackers can be a cook’s best friend – if you master their power to add texture and flavor to foods.

Cooks around the world have. They use crumbs to crisp-coat meats in Austria (Wiener schnitzel), Italy (alla milanese or alla parmigiana) and Japan (tonkatsu). To add body to Spain’s gazpacho as well as Greece’s taramasalata and skordalia. And to bring personality to a dish that might otherwise be downright dull.

So think of crumbs as more than annoying leftover bits scattered across a table. Know their secrets, then let them work for you in savory and sweet dishes.

COATING

Imagine a plain pork chop, fish or chicken cutlet, cooked sans coating. Could be lovely. Could look and smell delicious. Now imagine it breaded and cooked with a perfectly crisp exterior. The coating seals in juices, and those browned crumbs create another level of flavor, thanks to the Maillard reaction, a complicated process involving heat playing with amino acids and sugars.

There are three key components to breading success. “The Science of Good Cooking” – by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen – explains: “flour (or some flourlike substance); an egg wash (or something like it); and breadcrumbs (sometimes toasted, ground cereal, or crushed crackers).” Pat the food dry first, then apply each element with a light hand in the order listed, starting with the flour or cornstarch. Let the coated food rest to set the breading before deep frying or pan frying. If coated correctly, the starches and proteins will, well, glue everything together.

CRUNCH

Crumbs can change up the textural interest of casseroles, say, adding a crisp finish to mac ‘n’ cheese. Sprinkle plain or toasted crumbs atop vegetables, from roasted cauliflower to halved tomatoes. Or get creative, mixing crumbs with melted butter or herbs, spices, garlic, grated lemon rind or umami-rich grated Parmesan.

Don’t limit the crunch power of crumbs to appetizers and entrees, though. Crisp cookie bits transform potentially dull desserts. A simple pudding or custard or mousse takes on star quality, layered in parfait glasses with crumbs and whipped cream. Baked fruits (apples, rhubarb) become crumbles when topped with a crumbs-sugar-butter-spice mix. And when crushed cookies are pressed into crumb-crust service, their crisp texture and buttery flavor play well with tangy Key lime or cheesecake fillings.

FLAVOR-MAKER

The variety of crumbs, whether made from bread, cornflakes, matzo, crackers or corn chips, will influence the flavor of a dish, of course. But even plain white breadcrumbs have flavor power. Plain crumbs are often used to stretch the flavor of ground meats or fish (think meatballs and fish cakes). When breadcrumbs are toasted, their flavor deepens – it’s that Maillard reaction again. Consider the role of breadcrumbs in a classic Italian preparation that begins by toasting crumbs in olive oil before tossing them with cooked pasta. They add crunch and, by absorbing the dish’s elements (garlic, olives, tomatoes, etc.), help extend those flavors.

BODY BUILDER

Julia Child suggested using crumbs to bulk up fillings and absorb moisture, a job they do well in soups and stews. The late, great chef didn’t invent the concept, of course, she just supported the body-building power of breadcrumbs that has been popular since medieval cooks began thickening sauces that way.

Spain’s traditional gazpacho would just be a thin, watery tomato-cucumber soup if a bit of white bread weren’t allowed to soak up and dissolve in that mix. In Greece’s taramasalata, breadcrumbs bulk up the fish roe dip, in much the way they work in the garlicky spread called skordalia. In Provence, breadcrumbs thicken the garlicky-spicy sauce called rouille that’s served with fish soups. And in Britain, the classic bread sauce that’s often served with roasted poultry begins by infusing milk with onion and spices (cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, etc.), then relies on breadcrumbs to soak in the milk, letting the starches swell and thicken the sauce.

It’s in meatballs and meatloaf that crumbs exert crucial influence. When those crumbs are mixed with milk (a starch-liquid mix called a panade), then worked into ground meat, the mix will “keep ground meat moist and tender and help meatballs and meatloaf hold their shape,” note the America’s Test Kitchen editors.

Better that than a brick-hard meatloaf or dense meatballs, right? Credit the milk (moisture) and the crumbs (starch) for keeping the meat proteins from clumping together.

Credit crumbs for making eating more interesting.

–––

USE THIS FOR THAT

Panko: Use these flaky Japanese-style breadcrumbs for coating meat or seafood.

Dried breadcrumbs: Use these very dry or toasted crumbs for coatings or lightly buttered as a topping.

Fresh breadcrumbs: Use these soft crumbs for meatballs, fish cakes or stuffings.

–––

CRUMBS BRING DIFFERENT FLAVORS, TEXTURES TO DISHES

Which crumbs you use in cooking will depend on the job the crumb needs to perform, as well as personal preference. Fresh breadcrumbs are popular for coating foods, though some cooks prefer using dried crumbs. Others opt for the flavor cornflakes offer. Those who favor the Japanese crumbs called panko cite the lighter coating they produce.

Each has a slightly different texture. And when lightly browned in a skillet or on a baking sheet in the oven (yes, it’s that Maillard thing at work again), the toasting deepens their flavor, adding another dimension to a dish.

Supermarkets offer a variety of crumb products: plain, seasoned, cornflake, cracker, panko, matzo and gluten-free. Sweet crumbs may be made from graham crackers, chocolate wafers, vanilla wafers and gingersnaps. Whichever crumbs you choose, make sure they’re fresh, which is why many cooks prefer to make their own, because nothing ruins a great dish like stale crumbs.

• To make fresh breadcrumbs, remove crusts from bread slices that are a day or two old; French or Italian breads with good body are preferred. Tear up the slices and drop them into a food processor. Pulse gently to cut into crumbs; you can also use a blender. For fine crumbs, sieve them through a fine strainer. For coarser crumbs, rub torn up pieces of bread between your fingers.

• To make dry breadcrumbs, take those fresh breadcrumbs you just made, toss them onto a rimmed baking sheet. Dry them in a slow oven, 250 degrees for 15 minutes. Don’t let them brown.

• To make cookie crumbs, put cookies in a food processor and pulse. Or place in a resealable plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin. For a 9-inch crust, you’ll need about 1 cup cookie crumbs and 2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter (just enough to hold the crumbs together when you gently squeeze them in your hand), plus about 1 tablespoon of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the cookies and filling).

Press the mixture into the baking pan. Then bake 6 to 8 minutes in a 350-degree oven before cooling and filling with a pudding, mousse, cheesecake mixture or ice cream.

Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Fraisure Smith hearing delayed twice Friday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Luncheon honors women for their work to help others

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Sheepdogs, handlers flock to Rio Vista for trials

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Solano Rotary clubs honor top firefighters from across county

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Eatery to host event to support child with cancer

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

 
Project begins to brighten downtown Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

April workshops set for Train Station Project

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police log: March 26, 2016

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun police log: March 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Going home to mother

By Murray Bass | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Chances of being locked up vary widely across California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California couple’s kidnap-for-ransom claim: Things to know

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Jury says Silicon Valley firm did not discriminate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Video shows ‘hospitality ambassador’ beating homeless man

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Gov. Brown signs $1 billion water plan for dry California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
California woman, friend charged in alleged baby-theft plot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Public defender: San Francisco jail inmates forced to fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
NY mayor: Someone may have ‘inappropriately’ tapped gas line

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Feds: Baltimore jail illegally keeping juveniles in solitary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Autopsies determine children found in freezer were slain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fetus debate looms following charges in womb-cutting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Pugnacious Reid retiring, wants Schumer as Senate Dem leader

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Senate OKs Republican balanced-budget plan, following House

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
‘Sopranos’ star’s apartment destroyed by blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Pilot who scared passengers sues airline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

‘Mad Men’ costumes, props head to Smithsonian

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
US economy showing signs of durability

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Mexico City businesses cite losses during Bond filming

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Comedian Gardell hosts game show version of Monopoly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Nelson set to return to role as Coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
German airline could face ‘unlimited’ damages for Alps crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Co-pilot appeared healthy, but may have hidden illness

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
About 4,000 fishermen stranded on Indonesian islands

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Warships move in key strait as airstrikes widen in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Iran says nuke talks focused despite Yemen crisis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

At least 9 dead as militants attack hotel in Somali capital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned by Italy high court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

An open letter from Galileo to Ted Cruz

By Alexandra Petri | From Page: A8

 
Belgium’s foreign minister dresses up in blackface

By Ishaan Tharoor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

 
Today in History: March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: March 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes: March 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

My elderly mother is so stingy I’m finding excuses not to visit her

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
The newest fitness trend: Mixing it up

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

.

Entertainment

‘Stomp’ stopped by NYC blast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Mannequin museum show hits New York

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
‘Teen Mom’ star charged in picture posting case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

People: Zane Malik

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Larry David Broadway role handed to Jason Alexander

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Notre Dame beats Stanford women 81-60, advances to Elite Eight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
New Rodriguez head football coach introduced

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Curry, Thompson lead Warriors in rout over Grizzlies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Evans helps desperate Pelicans end skid vs. Kings, 102-88

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Ranuado goes 6 for Rangers’ but A’s rally for 7-6 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
A-Rod’s cousin pleads guilty in Florida steroids case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Durant to have another surgery, miss rest of season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Chicago rooftop owner charged with trying to defraud Cubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gift returns: Sterling wife wants house, $1 million

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Shaq acknowledges regret about decision to leave Magic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NASCAR topic: Cheating with tire pressure, or just hot air?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hot Rod Hundley, former NBA player and Jazz announcer, dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Area resident Jimmy Walker takes lead in Texas Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Logano wins Martinsville pole; Elliott to start 27th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for March 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Helen Kalis

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Robert Roberts

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Carol A. Vose

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Janice Jewel Thompson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Home Seller 3/28/2015

Books as decor: Versatile but meaningful design elements

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Real estate transactions for March 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2