My 10-year-old salt fiend of a son loves to grab a bag of croutons out of his grandma’s cupboard and eat the whole thing. I dislike the idea – low-quality bread doctored up with cheap oils, excessive salt, MSG, fake butter flavor – but I do understand the crunchy appeal of croutons. So he and I have started making homemade croutons with good-quality bread and extra-virgin olive oil. I use up bread that was too dry for eating, my son gets an endless supply of great croutons, and we save my mother-in-law $3 a bag. Everyone is happy.
Making croutons is an easy way to give old dry bread a second life, and I have an abundance of bread this summer. With the season’s bright abundance of fresh produce, I’ve been perfectly content eating salads of all sorts along with fresh fruit, good cheese, hummus and of course great bread.
Bread has taken a bad rap in recent years. I’m no apologist for white flour – I’ve debated the health benefits of grains here myself – but I think it’s silly to say that all grain products are equal. Certainly aisles of supermarkets are filled with colorfully-packaged junk grain products. But traditionally-crafted breads can be very different, and a long fermentation can produce good bacteria that break down harder-to-digest elements in grains the way yogurt bacteria break down milk. (I’ve heard of a Los Angeles bakery whose sourdough bread is fermented so long that even the gluten-intolerant can eat it – amazing.) So I buy the best bread I can find and use every last crumb.
Croutons can be made from any type or shape of bread. Just cut cubes with a sharp serrated knife.
Pile them in a mixing bowl.
Drizzle with good-quality olive oil and sprinkle on seasonings of your choice. My son likes garlic salt. But you could add salt and pepper, grated parmesan or minced herbs.
Mix, turning bread cubes over with a spoon.
One more round of olive oil for cubes tossed up from the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle again with seasonings. Taste and adjust as needed.
Spread bread cubes in single layer on baking sheet.
After a toasty bake in the oven, beautifully golden croutons – irresistibly crunchy additions to salads, soups or as a snack on their own.
Never throw away old bread – homemade croutons are simple, addictive and store well. Though they never store for long in my house of crouton snackers.
- Old bread (old enough to be dry, not old enough to be moldy)
- Good-quality olive oil
- Garlic salt (or regular salt and a pinch of garlic powder)
- Parsley (fresh minced or dried flakes)
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Herbs of your choice
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cut bread into cubes. Place bread cubes in mixing bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil generously over bread cubes and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and/or optional seasonings. Mix with a spoon, scooping from the bottom of the bowl and turning bread cubes over.
- Drizzle once more with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with seasonings. Mix again and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- Pour bread cubes out on baking sheet and spread evenly in one layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes (baking time will depend on moistness of bread), until golden and crisp.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Here’s the link to a printable version.