**Warning:** after reading this post and trying out this recipe, you will likely never go back to buying store-bought croutons again. In fact, you will probably find it hard to believe you ever spent money on store-bought croutons in the first place.
Inevitably, if I have guests over and I make a salad, I get the ‘proverbial eye-rolling’ when they notice my tasty homemade croutons and ask if I made them. I then, of course, get on my soap box about how easy it is to make homemade croutons, though it usually falls on deaf ears. “Sure, Lacey, they are so easy to make” they say as they secretly (actually, it’s pretty much outwardly) hate me for making my own croutons. But, people, it’s so easy….it really is. Please don’t hate me. Please….?
Not only does making homemade croutons allow you to utilize the ends of the loaves of bread you weren’t going to eat anyway, but it also allows you to make delicious, fresh croutons to add to your salads and soups. You will never again experience that disappointing moment when you suddenly realize you forgot to buy croutons at the store and that the salad is now ruined. Sound familiar?
To make croutons, all you need is some bread, oil and seasoning. What bread, oil and seasoning (and any combination) you choose will determine how your croutons taste. My personal favorite is to use a day-old french bread. I also save the ends of the regular sliced loaves of bread until I have a decent amount (about 4-6 slices and/or heels is plenty). Otherwise, you can use as many pieces of bread as you’d like. If the bread is too hard to cut but is still good, just pop it in the microwave, wrapped in a damp cloth, for about 20 seconds to loosen it up.
If you don’t have the time to bake the croutons in the oven, you can also fry them in a skillet on medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes until really golden brown. This method will leave your croutons a bit more chewy than if you baked them…which is equally as tasty, but don’t store as well.
Toss a few croutons on some Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup from my post earlier this week for a great combination.
day-old French bread (approximately 1/2 loaf)
olive oil (approximately 1/4 cup oil per 1/2 loaf)
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: Parmesan cheese, dried herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary), garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a bread knife, cut the bread into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch cubes. If you prefer larger or smaller croutons, make your cuts accordingly–just be sure to make your cuts as similarly as possible to help them bake evenly. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Add kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste and any seasonings you prefer. Once cubes are evenly and lightly coated, pour bread onto a baking pan lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up).
Bake bread in oven for 20-30 minutes until bread is golden and very crunchy. Toss cubes several times during baking.
Homemade croutons, stored in a plastic container or a plastic bag, last up to two weeks unrefrigerated.