Croutons are a necessary addition to a great salad. Freshly baked croutons with good quality greens, nuts, cherry tomatoes and dressing make for a truly memorable salad, and they’re a great way to use up bread that’s about to go bad. Simply hack up the loaf, season it with some herbs and bake to take old bread and give it a fresh, crunchy taste. Read on and learn how to make great homemade croutons.
Making Homemade Croutons
Picking the right bread is essential for making good croutons, because bread that is overly crusty or mushy won’t be sturdy enough to make proper croutons. Bread such as sourdough, ciabatta, focaccia or Italian-style bread are great choices, whereas it’s recommended to avoid regular sandwich bread, challah, brioche and bagels.
- One loaf Italian-style bread
- Four garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup of olive oil
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon thyme
- ¼ teaspoon rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- A pinch of chili flakes
- Remove the bread crust
- Cut the loaf into one-inch cubes to ensure all the pieces cook evenly
- In a saucepan, cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat. Avoid allowing the garlic to become too brown, as the flavor will be too bitter. You should cook the garlic for about 30 seconds.
- Add in your herbs and seasonings and stir
- Cook the oil mix for one to two minutes, then remove from heat. Pour the oil into a mixing bowl.
- Place your bread cubes in the mixing bowl and toss to ensure the bread gets covered in the oil mixture
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread the bread cubes on the sheet.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven. After seven minutes, stir the croutons and bake them for another five minutes.
- Check the croutons after the timer goes off — you want them to have a crisp outside while still having a slightly soft inside. If the crouton still feels too soft, bake them for a couple more minutes.
There are several ways to change up the basic croutons to make them something special.
- After cutting the crusts off, try ripping up the bread into pieces instead of cutting it. This is a quicker method to preparing croutons as you don’t have to precisely cut the bread into one-inch cubes. When baking torn bread pieces, take into account that some pieces will be bigger than others, and will take longer to bake as a result.
- Add various toppings and seasonings when baking. A cheese such as parmesan complements the Italian herbs very nicely and adds a salty flavor to the croutons. Seasonings such as curry powder, smoked paprika and tandoori are great to experiment with and add unique flavors when used in small doses.
- Try using infused oils or a combination of oils when making the mixture for the croutons. If you like a little extra kick, try using equal parts olive oil and chili oil when frying the garlic and herbs. The chili oil will add a flavorful punch with a mild spice that goes well with the bread. If you don’t feel like using chili oil in the frying process, try giving the croutons a light drizzle before baking them to get that chili flavor without risking overpowering the bread.