Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homemade Crispy, Buttery, Delicate Golden-brown Croutons

When it comes to homemade bread, I am a crust girl all the way, but with store bought bread not so much. Recently I had to make a bunch of finger sandwiches for an event at church and naturally for such an event crusts had to be trimmed from the bread to make it all fancy-like, so for the last week I have had a large plastic container of bread crusts hanging out on my kitchen counter.

Although I don't typically love store bought bread crust, I'm not one to just waste food either. My husband was in school long enough that we appreciate the importance of living frugally. In our family, we have adopted the old pioneer adage of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."  So, what to do with all those bread crusts?

My first thought was bread pudding, which probably would have been fine, but 1.) almost all recipes I found called for removing the crusts of bread and discarding them before making the pudding which kind of defeated the purpose, and 2.) I'm trying to cut back on sugar. Being alone with a bread pudding in the house for most of the day would not have been a good thing.

Upon further consideration I decided to try my hand at making homemade croutons. Now store-bought croutons are just okay for me, but let me tell you, these croutons blow store-bought croutons out of the water, ahem, I mean salad. These croutons are delicious, super simple and made the perfect accompaniment to my healthy, non-sugar-fied salad for lunch. Bonus: It made a huge batch so I have plenty of croutons to keep me in salad bliss for the next few weeks. I plan to keep them in my freezer just to be safe.

While I used mainly just the crusts and a couple of heels of cheap white bread that were hanging out in my cupboard, you really could use just about any type of loaf bread. If you have kids that hate crust or no one will eat the heel at your house maybe you could stockpile them in your freezer until you have enough for a nice large batch of crispy, buttery, savory, delicate, golden-brown croutons. They are perfect with salad, but we've been eating them by the handful as well (so much for a low carb diet).

--Crusts of about 24 pieces of bread (give or take a couple slices), cut into cubes. It doesn't hurt if they are slightly stale.
--Olive oil (more than you might think--about 6 tablespoons)
--Kosher salt to taste
--Freshly ground black pepper to taste
--Beau Monde seasoning (optional--this has salt in it so use a little less salt if adding this)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put your bread cubes in a extra large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and add a generous sprinkling of Kosher salt (I think I used somewhere between 2 teaspoons and a tablespoon--this really depends on your personal preference) and freshly ground black pepper (I used maybe around 1/2 to 1 teaspoon). Toss the bread, oil and salt and pepper with your hands until things seem evenly coated. The bread should not be saturated--just lightly coated. Go ahead and taste a little and adjust your seasoning as necessary. Spread the cubes evenly on a jelly-roll sized baking sheet and sprinkle with a little of the Beau Monde seasoning, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes stirring halfway through baking with a wooden spoon. They are done when they appear light golden-brown and crunchy.

Why don't you try them? You can be living in a crouton crunching paradise in about 20 to 25 minutes.

1 comment:

amyjo57 said...

I have done this in the past and you are right, they are so much better than store bought. (Isn't everything!) It is especially tasty if you have whole wheat and even rye or pumpernickel bread to use up. I have some bread ends in the freezer, hmmm. :-)