I want to spend a little more time talking techniques. Not formal recipes, but way of doing basic stuff that I find useful. And what better place to start than croutons?
I like crunch. I prefer crunchy peanut butter and I definitely get a cone when I order ice cream. When I am at a salad bar, I pile on the croutons. Why are salad bars both so awesome and so gross?! Nevermind that, croutons are great. And they are something that can be made better at home.
I buy a loaf of bread that I like, baguette, country loaf, sometimes even pumpernickel. Your choice, just make sure you like the taste of it. I cut it into small cubes. For me, the ideal size is about 3/4″ x 3/4″, sometimes a little smaller. These can sit on the counter and get stale, so no rush. Most crouton recipes suggest you remove the crusts from the bread. I used to blindly obey this rule, until I realized I had no idea why I would do that. The crust is my favorite part.
I pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl and add a clove or two of minced garlic. I let the oil mixture sit for between 20-30 minutes. This part is important. I picked up the technique from Cook’s Illustrated, I think. It provides the perfect amount of garlic flavor.
Pour the oil through a strainer onto the bread, push on the garlic solids to get all of the oil out. Toss the bread with the oil until it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the croutons with table salt (kosher salt does not stick as well), black pepper, and some dried oregano.
Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for 15-25 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crunchy. You can stir them occasionally to make sure they are browning evenly. Cool to room temperature and then store in an airtight container for a couple of days.
Use them on salads (duh), soup, or even as snacks.
November 14th, 2011 at 11:07 am
not sure if jacques pepin would approve (and who cares), but i have made a habit of using bacon grease from sunday breakfast to coat my stale bread cubes for croutons. toss the bread cubes in the baconny goodness, add some black pepper, and throw it in the oven. gives them a slight but not overwhelming bacon taste and they are super addictive.
oh, and make sure to keep non-bacon croutons around for your vegetarian and muslim friends ; )
November 14th, 2011 at 11:19 am
Homemade croutons are the absolute best!…I make them all the time…
Alanna Kellogg says:
November 14th, 2011 at 11:21 am
I’m with you on making homemade croutons but try them with leftover cornbread some time, even better!
November 14th, 2011 at 11:47 am
Pumpernickel croutons sound heavenly … the basics are great. There’s a reason they become classics.
Rachel @ Bakerita says:
November 14th, 2011 at 12:13 pm
Mmm, I remember making croutons with my mom all the time as a kid. We would always shave on some fresh parmesan and it was so so delicious. Thank you for reminding me, I’ll definitely make sure I make some with her over Thanksgiving!
November 14th, 2011 at 12:54 pm
I love simple things like this. It’s so nice to be reminded of small things that take meals beyond. I feel the same way about this herb rub: http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2011/08/david-lebovitzs-herb-rub.html
Have you tried it?
November 14th, 2011 at 1:12 pm
…I love homemade croutons! Sad thing is, when I do make ’em they rarely stick around for very long as I eat them like potato chips. ;o)
November 14th, 2011 at 1:29 pm
I LOVE making my own croutons. And I always need to make about double what I need, because I find that I munch on them all the time.
Kathryn O says:
November 14th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
Ooh, these would definitely be dangerous hanging around in my kitchen! Love the garlic & oil infusion technique, I’m going to have to try the croutons just for that!
Brad Goldfarb (aka The Recipe Grinder) says:
November 14th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
This looks wonderful…and dangerous! Never a good idea for me to have garlicky/salty/crunchy things hanging around as they tend to go straight into my mouth. Still, I may have to make an exception here. Unbelievably, I’ve never made my own croutons before! So thanks for this, and for the super site.
November 14th, 2011 at 2:38 pm
Yesterday I was thinking of making the pear sorbet from the Canal House Cookbook and when I went to google it to see if anyone else had attempted it and I immediately found your post! So then I was thinking how could I possibly make it any better. I mean really…could I? I thought of adding a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with it and making Caramel glazed croutons on top. Then I come here this morning and see you have a post about croutons!!
This freaks me out! (but in a good way)
la domestique says:
November 14th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
I love a good crouton, especially in a piping hot bowl of tomato soup. These look perfect.
Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers says:
November 14th, 2011 at 4:54 pm
Croutons are a wonderful thing. My favorite way lately is to simply tear the bread into roughish pieces, some small and crumby and some a little larger before carrying on with the toasting. It’s the rough texture which I adore so much, because it seems to amp up the crunch factor. (I even love the word crunch!) With just the two of us, our little toaster oven gets to do the work, unless I can capitalize on the residual heat if the oven happens to be on for something else.
Hope you honeymooners are still floating! Pam
Eat Well: This American Bite says:
November 14th, 2011 at 6:40 pm
Leftover bread is a godsend! If I don’t make croutons, I make breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, the croutons are a very tempting snack which can lead to bad things!
November 14th, 2011 at 9:36 pm
The best are cornbread croutons! They are great with a Thanksgiving-themed salad (I’m always the awkward vegetarian at Turkey dinner, so I come prepared). Cornbread croutons, fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes, honey vinegarette…mmm.
The Flavor Carousel says:
November 15th, 2011 at 1:51 am
Ah. Baked croutons. Thats a great idea. I wonder why all the croutons served in india are deep fried. I always try and avoid them for that reason but now ill have to give these a try. Thanks!
November 15th, 2011 at 1:54 am
oh LAWD. bread is such a beautifully rustic food. I keep my own pet starter at home and will definitely experiment with this recipe when we have extra bread that didn’t quite make the cut.
November 15th, 2011 at 5:38 am
i totally relate to loving crunch. it’s such an crazy mouth sensation! big ol’ croutons in a caesar or a wedge get me everytime.
November 15th, 2011 at 6:05 am
These look look+sound so yummy! I am a homemade crouton addict. They ate the perfect blend of salty crunch. Mmmmm. I am usually afraid of using actual garluc bits (afraid they will burn maybe?) so I season them with garlic salt. But your garlic oil technique sounds fabulous! Must try it next time! <3
November 15th, 2011 at 9:44 pm
Croutons are definitely worth making. I usually make them with bread that had gotten a little too hard to eat, only for special occasions do I purposefully make them. Plus my partner-in-crime is addicted to the ones our local grocery co-op makes and they are darn good.
November 17th, 2011 at 1:39 pm
Oooh, pumpernickel croutons! Those would be tasty late-night snacks… thanks!
Melissa // thefauxmartha says:
November 29th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
I’ll have to make these using your garlic in olive oil trick. Love it. PS—I think we could be neighbors. I’m a fellow Oak Parker too.
November 29th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
Hi Neighbor! Go Oak Park bloggers!