Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bread Crumbs

Caramelized Bread Crumbs with Rhubarb and Ice Cream

Is it too much to ask that the people in my family know when I want them to eat bread (so it doesn't get stale) and when I want them to leave it (so I can make breadcrumbs)? Okay, I suppose it is too much to ask. Not to mention completely unreasonable. But it would be nice.

I came to breadcrumbs late. I have no idea where old bread went when I was a child. Later, when I needed crumbs for something, I used them; otherwise, I'm ashamed to admit, unless I was making French toast or bread pudding, I threw away old bread.

Then one day I was eating lunch at a friend's house. After she cut the bread, she carefully brushed the crumbs off the board and back into the bread bag. These crumbs eventually made their way into a bag in the freezer. It's a trick she learned from her Italian grandmother.

Sweet and Savory Bread Crumbs, side by side

Now I'm doing the same. And I can't imagine not having breadcrumbs on hand. I like to toast them in a little olive oil to top pasta. I especially like them on pasta with anchovies and parsley, or on pasta with warmed cherry tomatoes.

But this summer I've remembered Danish Apple Cake. I fell in love with a lot of desserts when I lived in Denmark (check out buttermilk soup)--most involved both whipped cream and heavy cream (probably part of the reason I gained 20 pounds that year). But a favorite was the apple cake. It's kind of a cross between a Brown Betty and a trifle: applesauce is layered with cream and breadcrumbs. Simple and delicious.

The secret is in the crumbs. Recently I made it with an apple compote (finally using up last year's frozen Gravensteins) and rhubarb compote. Alternating layers (sorry, no photo) of the fruits and crumbs made a pretty trifle. Serve with a little whipped cream.

Or use the bread crumbs to dress up a dish of ice cream, as in the photo above.

Caramelized Crumb Recipe
Adapted from The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann (a very interesting book)

1/2 pound stale bread, diced
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar

Toast the bread (crumbs or tiny croutons) in a dry skillet, until they start to color. You'll need to watch them, and stir often so you don't burn them. Add the butter and sugar, and continue to cook and stir. The crumbs will slowly caramelize. When they reach the color you want, set aside.

Note: the crumbs will often continue cooking a bit in the hot pan--be sure to keep stirring a bit at first.

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Eleonora Baldwin said...

Oooo those caramelized breadcrumbs look delicious!!! I always add croutons to my salads and soups.

If you'd like to read some of my posts on recipes using leftover bread, scan though my archives. Or type "bread" in the upper left-hand corner in the search box and you'll get directed to a number of posts, each with more links in them. I love to recycle leftovers...


Charles Shere said...

When you were a child some of the old bread went to Arthur. Remember Arthur?

Giovanna said...

I remember Arthur. Kind of furry, black and white, lived in the back yard. Quiet fellow. Big ears.

So that's where the bread went.

And Lola, I'll be trying the Torta di Pane--as soon as the weather cools down and I find an old loaf of bread on the shelf (probably hidden behind a much newer one, half-eaten).

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