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Healthy Bread Crumbs
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Healthy Bread Crumbs

In today’s kitchen, it is commonplace to have packaged bread crumbs in the pantry ready for breading and frying various delicacies

In today’s kitchen, it is commonplace to have packaged bread crumbs in the pantry ready for breading and frying various delicacies. These bread crumbs come in a variety of flavors ranging from Italian flavored to plain. I must admit that I too used these products with little thought to exactly what I was buying and the notion that it was extremely convenient to just pop open the container and pour out as much as I needed for the task at hand. I tried several brands and all tasted relatively good.

 

The next time, however, look at the ingredient list and see what you are actually getting.

I have replicated the ingredient list of a popular brand – which by the way tasted good.

 

Flour

   Wheat Flour

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Water

Salt

Yeast

Honey

Molasses

Sugar

Wheat Gluten

Whey

Some Other Flour such as soy, whole wheat, rye, etc.

Dough Conditioners

            Mono & Diglycerides

Yeast Nutrients

            Ammonium Sulfate

Vinegar

Nonfat Milk

Buttermilk

Lactic Acid

Calcium Propionate

Sesame Seeds

 

While many of these ingredients seem innocuous, others are those that should be avoided such as Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, or in other words “Trans Fat”. It is used to increase the shelf life of baked products and the fry-life for cooking oils. You know that substance that is being banned and labeled as a heart risk throughout the country. Other ingredients such as High Fructose Corn Syrup aren’t deadly; just spike your blood sugar to extremes, unnecessarily. It is actually made from corn starch which is processed into glucose and then further processed into fructose. It is cheaper to produce and ship than sugar. Studies suggest that it is the fructose component that causes the unusually high spikes in blood sugar. Clearly, there is a major controversy over the amount of sugar in the American diet and the effects of high fructose corn syrup verses sugar. But why is it the 2nd ingredient in the store bought bread crumbs.

 

What if you were to make your own bread crumbs that didn’t contain all of these ingredients. Of course this sounds like way too much trouble for the average person – or does it? Well let’s take a look at what it would take to do and compare not only ingredients, but costs and yields.

 

Most supermarkets carry a line of fresh breads, either baked on the premises or at a local baker. I picked up a loaf of bread and tried to duplicate the bread crumb experience. The bread’s ingredients are as follows:

 

Flour

   Wheat Flour

   Barley Flour

Water

Sour Culture

Roasted Garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt

Chopped Garlic

Semolina

Wheat Germ

Yeast

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

Reduced Iron (Also known as elemental iron)

Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Ferrous Sulfate (Iron)

 

Obviously it cannot taste as good – there are no extraneous ingredients and I can pronounce all of them. Something is clearly wrong.

 

To make my bread crumbs, I first slice the bread into thick slices. I cut the bread into rough cubes and put them in a food processor. After 15 seconds of pulsing, I have soft, but coarse crumbs. These could be used for a stuffing, but I want something to coat my thin chicken cutlet for frying. Also, I want to simulate the consistency of store bought crumbs. I could obviously fry with the soft crumbs. Well I placed them on a cookie sheet and put them in a 250 degree over for about 20 minutes to dry out. I then put them back into the food process for a few quick pulses and low and behold, I have fine bread crumbs.

 

Now a word of caution, the crumbs that I just made do not contain any preservative such as calcium propionate. Therefore I keep them in a plastic container in the freezer. It turns out that because of the small size of the crumbs, they defrost very quickly – especially when placed into hot oil. In fact, considering the time that they sit out on the counter before the dish is prepped, they are already defrosted. Also, they pour just like the crumbs that are kept in the pantry.

 

The bread that I used to make the crumbs happens to be from La Brea Bakery of Van Nuys, California. The cost for a 1 lb loaf of roasted garlic sourdough bread is $3.75. Clearly, there are many other types of bread available in the local supermarket that does not contain either high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oil. These breads are available at varying prices. In addition, you can buy bread to enjoy with your meal and if there are any leftover pieces, they can be made into crumbs instead of eventually throwing them out.

 

Now I am not making a case for a more economical bread crumb, but one that contains ingredients that are beneficial to your health. The store bought crumbs cost $1.89 for a 15 oz container with a volume of 33 cubic inches. The homemade crumbs in this case cost $3.75 for a 16oz container with a volume of 28.25 cubic inches. The homemade crumbs are obviously denser than the store bought variety. As an aside, I was able to purchase 20 oz sourdough bread for $2.99.