TDB Homemade: Croutons

Croutons are so quick and easy to make, and they are a perfect use for that day-old stale bread left over from dinner last night.

Directions:

Cut any amount of stale or slightly hardened bread into cubes and place them in a large frying pan over medium heat.  The size to make the croutons is up to you, but I like them to be around 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 1/2″.  Drizzle the cubes with olive oil and toss to coat.  Just a couple tablespoons of oil is sufficient for half of a leftover baguette — you don’t want to drench the bread.  Add flavor — sprinkle with garlic powder, dried or fresh herbs, chili powder, a little salt, freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano…you name it!  Toss the croutons in the pan periodically so that they toast evenly, allowing them to brown slightly and get crunchy.  Depending on how much moisture remains in the bread, this may take as little as 3 minutes, but usually 5-7 minutes is enough for a day-old French baguette (which happens to be my favorite type of bread to convert to croutons).

Croutons can also be made with pre-packaged sliced bread, although the more preservatives the bread contains, the longer it will stay moist, which means it will take longer to crisp up.  With any pre-packaged sliced bread, preservatives or no, a better method of cooking is to toss the bread cubes with oil and flavor ingredients in a large bowl, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake them at 250ºF until they are dry and crispy, about 30 minutes.

And that’s it!  So easy, and so delicious.  And like so many other things, homemade croutons taste way better than their pricey, pre-packaged counterparts, which often also contain “mystery ingredients”.  Use your homemade version to top salads or soups, or try them as a tasty snack alternative to chips and crackers.  They will keep pretty well (after cooling) in an airtight container for several days.  But good luck keeping them around that long.  My last batch was gone within hours!

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