The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Good Croutons anyone?

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ehanner's picture
ehanner

Good Croutons anyone?

You might be surprised to know that I have never made a batch of croutons that I liked. In my view a good crouton has to add flavor to a salad or soup, have a nice taste on its own and not be so hard it requires care when eating. I have had some but not many good croutons from the grocery store and some in restaurants. As I see it the process of making a good cube must start with selecting the proper bread and then cooking it somehow and seasoning it.


I would be forever grateful if someone would share a method for making killer croutons that aren't to crunchy for my old teeth.


Thanking in advance and making the dressing for Ceaser Salad as we speak!


Eric

baltochef's picture
baltochef

Take bread that you like the taste of..I like a good sourdough batard..Cut it into evenly sized cubes no larger than 1/2" square..Melt salted artisan butter and mix it with equal parts best-quality extra virgin olive oil..The fruitier, and more flavorable the olive oil the better..I like to use a mixture of fine-grained sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, along with really fresh and flavorable herbs..


For the very best results take several ounces each of fresh basil, thyme, oregano, and marjoram and add these herbs to about a pint of the olive oil in a blender..Pulverize the herbs into the oil..Pour this herb / oil mix out into a wide mouth jar with a tight lid..Allow to macerate for several days to infuse the essential oils from the herbs into the olive oil..Strain this mixture and add the melted butter..Save the strained herbs to use for roasting chicken, turkey, veal, or pork..Place the oily chopped herbs right under the skin of fowl prior to roasting..


Place the dry bread cubes in a large stainless steel mixing bowl..With glove-clad hands drizzle the butter / oil mixture around the inside of the bowl just above the bread cubes..With your hands pull the cubes up against the oil on the bowl and gently toss the cubes between your hands to coat the cubes as evenly as possible wiith the infused oil / butter mixture..Keep doing this in stages until the cubes are somewhat wet with the fats..Sprinkle the cubes lightly with the salt and fresh ground pepper..Toss evenly..Taste for salt and pepper levels..


Place on parchment covered sheet pans..Bake in a 350-400 degree fahrenheit oven until crispy, but still chewy..Allow to cool on the pans until they are room temperature..Store in a tightly covered container..Eat and enjoy!!!..


Bruce

alconnell's picture
alconnell

We owned our own pizza shop for several years and made our own croutons and dressings.  We used stale sub buns to make the croutons, which was sometimes a problem because often there weren't any stale ones!  In any case, the sub buns were basically pizza dough stretched to fit oiled sheet pans.  I want to say they were 6-7 oz. each, six going into each pan.  We cut those into cubes and spiced them with olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic and a pizza spice mix and baked them in a hot oven until crispy.  Even better was if we left them on top of the oven overnight then baked them.  Those were delicious!  I will say Chatham Village croutons are pretty darn good. 


I hope your Caesar dressing has anchovies and tabasco in it!  Yum!!

baltochef's picture
baltochef

For cheese croutons I like to add a good, finely grated Asiago cheese that has a nice bite to its taste..

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

....olive oil, with a pinch of herbes de provence and as many fresh herbs as you like.  We prefer them sauteed in butter because they don't get all hard and lethal to our teeth, but you could use olive oil and watch them carefully, as they can go from just right to burned in the blink of an eye.  I sometimes shake them in a brown paper bag to reduce the amount of oil, and at that time, I'll add the herbs.

celestica's picture
celestica

 


Dry out your good bread (not multigrain/whole wheat) in the oven on low. Cool.  Place in bucket with a lid.  Add melted butter mixed with olive oil 50/50, salt, pepper, and any spices you like along the italian mix line.  I don't have any measurements, but add enough to get all cubes wet.


They keep longer without any added cheese.  The trick is to season the oil mixture strongly.  These are delicious and keep very well.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My basic method adds just garlic and olive oil. I suppose my method could accommodate dried herbs, I just happen to like them my way.


To make about 2 cups of croutons:


Preheat oven to 250 (for unbrowned croutons) or 325 (for browned croutons)


Slice bread into slices about 1/3 inch thiick. Cut of the crust (or not) and cut into 1/3 inch cubes.


Pour 1/3 cup of good olive oil into a medium bowl. Crush a clove of garlic into the oil and stir.


Pour the bread cubes into the oil and toss to coat evenly. 


Dump bread cubes onto a cookie sheet or other pan and bake until crisped and browned to the desired degree. Give them a stir every 10-15 minutes. (At 250F, the croutons will be crisp but not browned in about 40 minutes.) 


Note for old choppers: Sourdough bread does not get as easily crunched. Baguettes provide easiest chewing.


David

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I knew I could count on this crowd for some good ideas for croutons. I have to plan ahead to have good bread for these since it doesn't last long around here. I think I get the idea now. I'll try my Italian bread with biga since I like the flavor so much and it has a nice soft even crumb. I try to keep my cooking simply spiced, if strongly, so definite flavors stand out. The dressings we like are usually sharp with Dijon mustard and yes, anchovies. So a simple garlic and butter/evoo sounds like a good place to start and maybe add some herbs as I figure this out.


I like it when the croutons are delicious on their own and I also make a killer French onion soup that loves good crunchies.


Thank you all for your kind advice, I do appreciate it.

dabigo's picture
dabigo

I like them a little crunchy and a little chewy, and into a Ceasar salad warm out of the oven.


Preheat oven to 425.


Cube a loaf of your favorite bread, crust and all. Put it in a 9 x 12 pan.


Melt a stick of butter, Crush in some garlic, 5 or 6 cloves.


Drizzle it all over the cubed bread. Then drizzle some olive oil maybe .25 cup.


Grate some parmesean over the top off it all. Not a little, enough so you can see it.


Put in oven, stir well every 20 minutes. Check them at 50 minutes, they should be done, 10 minutes more if you like them extra crunchy.


You could sprinkle in herbs if you like, the garlic/cheese makes me happy.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Dabigo,
Those sound bold and delicious also. It seems like the cubes would not be in a single layer in the pan. Is that the idea?


I have a basic principle when cooking. When ever I'm not sure what to do, add more garlic. This looks like it will fit in well in that philosophy. Thanks!


Eric

dabigo's picture
dabigo

No, not a single layer, it ends up like 3 deep, depends on your initial loaf size. It's pretty much a full pan, that's why we stir it up a couple times.


Butter and garlic, my sister always says everything is better with butter and garlic.


http://d4bigo.blogspot.com/2008/10/chicken-ceasar-recipe.html

ehanner's picture
ehanner

OK, I'm absolutely drooling now. The bread came out of the oven (Italian) and the dressing is ready. The house smells like garlic Mondo.


Eric

dabigo's picture
dabigo

The picture in the link is a generic representation. My croutons are usually a bit smaller, .5 to .75 inch or so. But you get the idea.


Best wishes to you and your salad, and many thanks to Floyd.


Mjo

ehanner's picture
ehanner

The salad was great and the croutons were a hit. I think the Italian bread was a good choice for the bread. I purposely left it in the oven a little longer at a lower temp to try and dry it out a little.


Thanks again everyone who chimed in with help on this project.


Eric