HOW TO MAKE CROUTONS FOR SOUPS AND SALADS
Croutons are pieces of bread that have been toasted, either in a frying pan or the oven, until they are crisp and golden brown. They can be tossed into green salads, sprinkled on top of soups and casseroles, crushed over cooked vegetables such as asparagus or broccoli, and used as the base for stuffings or savoury bread puddling.
Makes about 3 cups of croutons
A partial loaf of slightly stale bread (about 1/2 pound / 225g)
1/4 cup of olive oil or melted butter or a combination of the two
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon dried herbs such as oregano, basil, or thyme OR
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, finely minced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375°F(190°C). Prepare the bread according to the kind of crouton you need: thinly slice a baguette into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices for French croutons;
pull rough pieces from a loaf of bread for rustic croutons;
or using a knife, cube slices for more uniform bread cubes.
Place on baking tray.
Drizzle a little of your fat of choice onto your baking sheet.
Add your bread, bunching it close together in a single layer.
Drizzle remaining fat on top, add a heavy pinch of salt, and toss lightly to coat.
Spread the croutons out so that they are no longer touching. → Note: For the flat French croutons, simply brush each side with the fat.
Bake in the oven.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes.
Remove the tray, carefully toss and stir croutons (or turn over the French croutons).
Bake another 5 minutes and check for doneness. Depending on the size of the bread and how browned you want them, they may need another 5 minutes or so.
Cool and store. When the croutons are done to your liking, remove them from the oven and cool on the pan. If not using right away, store croutons for a few days in an airtight container.
For garlic croutons, finely grate 1 clove of garlic using a microplane straight into the olive oil or melted butter a few minutes before using. If you can do this several hours in advance so that the garlic really infuses the fat, even better. Just be sure the garlic is very finely grated. If you don’t have a microplane, use a garlic press. If you don’t have a press, just be sure you mince the garlic as finely as possible. This is to avoid charred bits of garlic on your croutons, which will taste burnt and acrid.
For herbed croutons, sprinkle on your dried herb of choice when adding the salt. For fresh herbs, add them when tossing after the first 5 minutes of baking.
For parmesan croutons, add the parmesan when tossing after the first 5 minutes of baking.
Photo: Gideon Louw