Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Croutons

Last Year's Post:  Tuscan Barley Soup
Two Years Ago:    Chicken Limone Pasta

I love how croutons can give a nice crunch to salads and soups, but I don't love store-bought croutons in a box.  They're huge, hard as a rock, and way over-seasoned to compensate for the fact that they have no taste.  Other than that, they're perfect.

My solution is to make very small croutons, which you can scatter over the top of your salad for nice little crunchy bits with every bite.  By contrast, store-bought croutons on a salad need to be approached with care and planning or you'll end up at the dentist since they're the approximate size and consistency of a matchbox car.  Small croutons are also perfect as a garnish for soups and even for pastas such as spaghetti with pesto or baked pasta dishes.  Crush some of the croutons in a small bowl with the back of a spoon and sprinkle over vegetables such as green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts for a little extra crunch.

You can use any type of bread for this recipe, and a few leftover slices from a loaf are just perfect.  A dark rye might be a nice color contrast to potato or cauliflower soup, for example.  It helps if the bread is thinly sliced to start since you'll be cutting it into tiny cubes.  I would advise against trying to use a food processor because in my experience they produce uneven results - some big pieces, some small - unless you grind the bread all the way down to crumbs.

Another advantage to making your own croutons is that you can add whatever seasonings you like.  It's fun to experiment with Italian seasonings, garlic salt, french seasonings, or even some chili powder to spice up some croutons for something like beer cheese soup.  I listed garlic salt because it's a good basic flavor that will go with a lot of things but feel free to use whatever you want.

I bake croutons rather than using a fry pan to toast them because I think it's easier to control the amount of browning and the oven produces more uniform results.  Just be sure to watch them closely near the end because they brown pretty fast when they're small.

Mini Croutons
Makes 2 cups

2 cups bread, preferably thin-sliced, cut into 1/3” cubes (approximate)
¼ teaspoon garlic salt (or other seasonings)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350d.

Place the bread into a bowl and add the garlic salt or other seasonings.  Toss to combine.  Slowly add the olive oil in a drizzle while stirring, one tablespoon at a time, until all the croutons are evenly coated.  Taste and adjust seasonings if  needed.

Spread the croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Place on the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes, then stir and return to the oven for an additional 5-8 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and let cool completely.  If desired, blot on paper towels before storing in an airtight container.

No comments: