Why are Japanese bread crumbs different from other commercially made bread crumbs? The differences begin with the bread itself. Japan bread is made from flour that has a much higher gluten content than flour used for bread-baking in America.The resulting texture is fluffier and chewier.
Then, the bread is so lightly toasted in a slow and low oven that the bread actually dries more than toasts. This maintains the white color of the bread. Bread crumbs of other ethnic cuisines are brown because they are toasted dark.
Finally, bread for panko is ground into three different textures: fine, medium and coarse. But even the fine texture crumbs have jagged edges when compared to other types of fine sand-like bread crumbs. The jagged edges help keep air pockets between the crumbs for extra crunch after frying.
If you cannot find commercially made panko at your local market, you can buy them online or make your own. Try to bake your own high-gluten bread, using your bread machine, by simply adding a teaspoon of gluten powder for each cup of flour in your bread recipe. That is all it takes to achieve the chewier texture. Packaged bread flour is flour with added gluten. Some wheat naturally contains higher gluten than others, but adding your own powdered gluten is an easy way to be sure your bread will have enough. You also can add honey or extra sugar in the dough for sweeter crumbs.
If you do not want to bake your own bread, buy a high-gluten white bread. It must be white bread. Wonder Bread brand bakes white bread with at least more gluten than other white bread brands.
Panko Bread Crumbs Recipe
Japanese white bread slices*
*Japanese pan/bread has a higher gluten content.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut off the crusts of the white bread slices. Place the slices on a cookie sheet and toast in the slow oven until the bread is dried but not browned. Be sure the bread does not brown!
Using a box grater, grate the bread slices until they break into coarse crumbs. If you choose to use a food processor for this step, be sure to pulse only a few times. You want to achieve a coarse crumbs, like small glass shards NOT fine sand. Spray on honey water with a spritz bottle and dry the crumbs again.
Store your panko in an airtight container and place in the freezer until ready to use. Keep it dry. You can season your panko but do so only just as you use it a recipe. Panko is used mostly as a crunchy coating for fried foods, but you can use it anyway you would use bread crumbs such as blended with butter and seasonings to give casseroles a nice crunchy topping.