Ever since the hand-crushed fermented bread crumbs popped up on the tasting menu at Daniel Patterson’s flagship restaurant, Coi, breadcrumbs have been the making their way onto trendy plates throughout the city. It seems that breadcrumbs are the new toast—an artisanal accessory food that can be dressed up or down for any occasion. Tired after a long day of work? Crumble a few slices of Acme levain and smother the crumbs with American cheese. Trying to impress your new brocoding boyfriend? Try a blend of Josey Baker crumbles topped with flakes off of a Tartine croissant. Throwing a dinner party in your up-and-coming mid-Market penthouse? Pull out the big guns by showcasing a 5-course tasting menu to explore all of the different flavors and textures present within this extraordinary food. Here’s how.
First, you will need to source your bread. You’ll need at least one different selection per course, and it is best to buy the highest quality product possible. Check your local farmers’ markets first before searching through a grocery delivery app. You can also choose to buy bread through local retailers or a small, independent grocery store (but only if they sell local goods. Here, I’ve sourced a loaf of local levain, a local morning bun, a bag of local pita bread, a local everything bagel, and a (regrettably not local) loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread.
Each type of bread necessitates a different preparation method to best highlight their unique texture profile. Follow along below to see the meal prepared in the order of its courses.
First course: Elevated Bagel (untoasted everything crumbs, frothy buttermilk, baby parsley)
Bagel crumbs should be rustic in their formation and untoasted in their nature. To prepare, slice the bagel into 1/4-inch thick rounds and transfer to a food processor. Pulse the bagel pieces until they have formed a diverse assemblage of crumbs, some pea-sized and some sand-sized. Transfer to a small bowl.
To plate the dish, place a Chinese soup spoon on the counter. Carefully pour shaken and strained buttermilk into the spoon. This creamy, frothy buttermilk mimics the tang of cream cheese without its gelatinous mouthfeel. Top the buttermilk with two large pinches of bagel crumbs, being sure to place a few golden pieces on top. Pinch off one baby parsley leaf and place on top for a perfect burst of fresh grassiness.
Second course: A Taste of the Middle East (hand-flaked olive oil-fried pita crumbs, za’atar, fry oil)
Pita’s delicate nature deserves a gentle touch. To make the pita crumbs, first tear one pita into haphazard 3-inch pieces. Next, tear each of these pieces into smaller, pine nut sized flakes. Now pinch a small amount of the flakes in between your fingers and rub them together to crumble. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
Next, fry the pita crumbs by heating 1/4 inch of locally cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil in a small cast iron skillet. Add the crumbs and fry until they just turn golden and crisp. Drain the crumbs through a fine mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Reserve the leftover frying oil for plating.
Scatter 4 pinches of pita crumbs on a terra cotta plate. Using a baby spoon, drizzle the fry oil over the crumbs. The additional oil adds bitter depth and soft moisture to the crisp crumbs. Sprinkle approximately 1/16 teaspoon za’atar across the plate to add lively traditional zing to the plate.
Third course: Health (whole wheat bread crumbs, toasted, no oil, no salt)
For this exploration of the salubrious nature of crumbs, start with whole wheat sandwich bread (bonus points for scoring a loaf fortified with extra fiber and minerals). Remove the crusts from three slices of bread and throw these gummy strips in the garbage can. Slice the interior of each slice into 1 by 2-inch rectangles.
Pulse the bread rectangles in a food processor until they’ve formed fine, squishy crumbs. You could serve the crumbs raw, but I prefer to toast them in a 318° oven for 15 minutes. The long, slow baking process transforms the soft crumbles into crunchy, Grape Nuts-like gravel—a perfect representation of health.
Plate the health crumbs on a textured white plate in the shape of a curved comet trail. Do not add oil, butter, salt, or pepper.
Fourth course: Four Crumbs, Four Textures (Acme pain au levain prepared four ways, maldon, cracked black pepper)
The best way to experience a voyage of crumb textures is to experiment with size. I like to use a decent but not incredible naturally leavened loaf for this course. Acme’s pain au levain is a perfect choice. To prepare, slice off 1 1/4-inch thick piece, and then hand-separate the soft interior from the chewy crust. Next, hand-tear the soft interior into large 1-inch, crouton-like crumbs (“crouton” is really just another word for large breadcrumb), and then slice the crust into craggy 1-inch squares.
From the collection of large crumbs, select the two most perfect interior crumbs and two most perfect crust crumbs. Set one of each aside for plating, and then place the remaining two interior and crust crumbs on a toasting platter to crisp.
Toast the crumbs in a 321° oven for 5 to 6 minutes until they’re just starting to turn golden. If they turn too dark, the crisp portions will turn carcinogenic, so they’ll need to be discarded. Finally, plate the four crumbs on an oversized slate platter in order from softest to crispest, and then scatter flakes of Maldon salt and cracked black pepper over the plate.
Fifth course: Investigating Breakfast for Dessert (melting vanilla ice cream, whiff of chocolate, hand-flaked morning bun crumbs)
Like pita bread, morning bun crumbs should always be hand-made. Separate the bun into four large sections, and then gently flake apart each layer using only the tips of your fingers. The crumb flakes should be thin and wispy. Discard any crumbs that do not flutter when tossed gently in the air.
Using two spoons, scoop a miniature quenelle of well-sourced vanilla ice cream onto a small grey dessert plate. Place a square of high-quality, single-origin dark chocolate next to the ice cream for 5 seconds. Remove and discard, leaving only the faintest trace of the chocolate’s oil. Pile 1 1/2 tablespoons of morning bun crumbs next to the ice cream. Let the ice cream begin to melt and pool below the crumbs before serving.
Recipe: DIY Breadcrumb Tasting Menu
Note: Recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled as needed, depending on the size of your party.
- 1 everything bagel, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 1 tablespoon buttermilk
- 1 baby parsley leaf
- 1 pita bread, torn into rustic 3-inch pieces
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/16 teaspoon za’atar
- 3 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed and interior sliced into 2 by 3-inch rectangles
- 1 1 1/4-inch thick slice Acme pan levain, soft interior separated from chewy crust
- 1 tablespoon Maldon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
- 1 morning bun, separated into 4 large pieces
- 1 small square high-quality, single origin dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon high-quality vanilla ice cream
- Food processor
- Small cast iron skillet
- Fine mesh strainer
- Small bowl
- Toasting platters
- Chinese soup spoon
- Terra cotta plate
- White textured plate
- Oversized slate platter
- Grey dessert plate
- Prepare crumbs as described above.
- Just before serving, plate crumbs as described above.
- Enjoy the delicate nature of each preparation of crumbs.