I always thought that making homemade croutons required the forethought to plan ahead and buy some bread a few days in advance, allowing it to air-dry and go stale. Turns out I was wrong.
I tend to work on impulse, so I usually don’t know on Monday that I will want to make croutons on Wednesday. I pretty much decide on Wednesday, ‘Today is a good day to make croutons!’
So, for those of us who don’t plan ahead, here are some foolproof directions for making homemade croutons using fresh bought-it-today bread. The method can also be used if you happen to have stale bread which you want to use up – you simply reduce the cooking time by half.
HOW TO BAKE CROUTONS
(makes 4 cups of croutons)
Bread (stale or fresh), enough for 4 cups of bread-cubes
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
Fresh black pepper (to taste)
– 1 tsp dried herbs (herbes de provence or oregano work particularly well)
– 3 fresh garlic cloves (peeled and minced) or 1 tsp garlic powder
– 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
– anything else that you can imagine
- Preheat your oven to 350F/175C and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Use the regular conventional oven setting, not fan-assisted.
- Using either stale bread or fresh bread, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes until you have 4 cups of bread-cubes.
- In a mixing bowl, put 4 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and any additional ingredients (ie. dried herbs, garlic, parmesan, etc). Mix the ingredients well. Add the bread-cubes and toss until they are well-coated.
- Place the seasoned bread-cubes in a baking dish which is large enough for them to lie in a single layer.
- Place the baking dish in the lower third of the oven.
- Baking time for stale bread: If you are using stale bread, bake the bread-cubes for 5 minutes, toss them, and bake them for another 5 minutes until golden brown. The first time you make them, check them a few times during the baking process as oven temperatures can vary.
- Baking time for fresh bread-cubes: If you are using fresh bread, bake the bread-cubes for 10 minutes, toss them, and bake them for another 10 minutes until golden brown. The first time you make them, check them a few times during the baking process as oven temperatures can vary.
- Check that they are crunchy and then remove from the oven. If they are not yet crunchy, bake them for a few more minutes. They will firm up as they cool.
- Allow the croutons to cool out of the oven to room temperature.
- Store them in an air-tight container for upto 3 days at room temperature or upto 5 days in the refrigerator.