Home Made Breadcrumbs - why do all the recipes say "day old bread"?
Every recipe I have ever seen says that the bread needs to be "day old". In my experience, bread that is left to dry for over a week is sometimes not crumbly enough, and gives my food processor a real workout. I sometimes even have to toast it in the oven before it can be made into crumbs.
Why do all of these sources give bad instructions? Is it possible that these "recipe writers" have never tried it themselves, but publish these instructions anyway? Call me cynical, but I really think that none of these sources have actually tried it themselves.
Why do I bother? Well, it's a good way to use leftover bread, and it does taste better than packaged.
Cook's Illustrated reported on the science of stale bread and you are right in the sense that day-old is not actually stale enough. Exposure to room temperature air causes the starch molecules to crystallize, entrapping water. Heat reverses this process, which is why if you heat a somewhat stale roll, it returns to having a crisp crust and tender interior. CI therefore directs you to cube fresh bread and heat it in the oven at 250F. This does evaporate the water in the bread, so the crumbs are truly dry. If you make bread pudding, or poultry stuffing, oven-dried bread cubes will be able to absorb more liquid since they are truly dry. Pulverized crumbs made from oven-dried bread will make better crusts when used as breading..
I only use bakery bread without preservatives, so I don't think that is the issue for me. Yes, I do understand that the average loaf of packaged, processed bread can hang around in its packaging for two weeks because of preservatives, but that is not my issue, because I am not using it here. These are mostly baguette, batard, ciabatta and boule leftovers from my local bakery.
I think I will start cubing it before drying it out to see if that helps any.
These must be the same recipe creators/writers who think you can caramelize onions in 15 minutes!
I don't think they are 'bad instructions'. Fresh and dried breadcrumbs are two different things, with different uses.
I use day-old bread for fresh breadcrumbs, like the ones you might put in meatballs or on top of a macaroni and cheese before baking. Very fresh bread is too moist and can get gummy, but bread that's a little dry grinds beautifully in my mini or full-sized processor.
For dry breadcrumbs, I use bread that is completely dry, as you described above, but then I usually just buy panko for that.
Because we do usually eat fresh bread fresh, and when the bread is not fresh anymore, we use it for other applications like breadcrumb.
In my experience, there is a stage when the bread is drying it will get rock hard (1, 2, days) before loosing all (most) of its humidity and then will get brittle (4, 5 days).
slice or cube your bread pieces, then lay them out on a baking sheet overnight. -- if necessary, dry them out in a low (150-200F) oven for an hour or so.
I have radiators, so I lay the trays on top of the radiator. Perfectly dry overnight.