Ever since I started eating salads as a wee lass, I have loved croutons. No scratch that, I adore croutons! Crispy crunchy little bits of bread that are loaded with flavor adding a nice texture to salad. Sometimes they’ll soak up a bit of the dressing acquiring even more flavor! I prefer smaller bite sized pieces but I won’t turn down a crouton when presented to me.
I used to buy croutons all the time at the store. I had my favorite brands and favorite flavors. Garlic was a must and cheese was optional.
Croutons that came on salads from a restaurant seemed even more special. No doubt they were the same croutons I was buying myself but when you’re out to dinner everything always seems a little more decadent and special.
I rarely meet a crouton that I don’t like. Oh it happens, just not often.
For some reason it never occurred to me to make my own until I saw Ina do it several years ago. Then the lightbulb went off, “I can do that too!”
The best part about making your own croutons is that you are in control of what goes on them and how much you use. If you are using bread that you made yourself, bonus points because you have even more control of what goes into your food!
While I love all bread, I prefer a nice whole grain for eating. Yet when it comes to making croutons, a good old French baggette does the job nicely. I love the baguette because it’s got a nice texture to work with. The day of purchase it’s crusty with a softer inside, perfect for dipping and making bruschetta. The next day? It’s hard enough to knock one out of the park or defend yourself against an intruder. Perfect for making croutons. You have to love versatility.
I’m also going to let you in on a little secret, you do not have to use day old or stale bread to make croutons. You can use fresh bread.
All you need is some bread of your choice and then cut it up into bite sized pieces.
Here’s how to make croutons at home. Keep in mind that I’m passing along a concept and not an exact recipe. Amounts depend on your taste preferences and how much bread you have.
Andrea’s Homemade Restaurant Style Croutons
- 1 French Bagguette, cut into bite size pieces
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Seasoning ( I use Mrs. Dash)
Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with foil. Spray with olive oil or non-stick spray. In a large mixing bowl add the bread cubes, drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top, toss using your hands or using a large spoon. Add in garlic powder and Italian seasoning, again, toss using your hands or a large spoon.
Place bread pieces on the baking sheet and into the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread to make sure it doesn’t burn. Stir it occasionally and test the bread to see if it is hard and crispy. When it has reached that stage and it picked up some golden brown color, remove from oven and allow to cool. Add to soups and salads!
I told you it was easy to do! The trickiest part is to make sure the bread doesn’t burn which is really simple. You just have check the bread every few minutes to make sure it isn’t toasting up too far.
This works for both fresh and stale bread. Fresh bread will still toast up and get crispy in the oven. Use what you have on hand, and if that means stale or day old bread, go for it! You can even do this with cornbread! Cornbread will require a gentler hand because it can be crumbly, but will make croutons for you.
The balsamic gives the croutons a little bit of a darker color and also adds some tang to the taste. Totally optional though, if you would rather straight olive oil that’s okay too!
If you want to get even fancier, you can grate some parm on the croutons before baking to give them a little hint of cheesy goodness.
Now who’s going to make some croutons this week?