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Ingredient

Croutons

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What is it?

Often made from day-old or stale bread, croutons are added to many dishes, most commonly soups and salads, for extra flavor and crunch.

Kitchen math:

Four ounces of any type of bread will yield between 2 and 3 cups of cubes.

How to choose:

Croutons are readily available in every supermarket, but homemade croutons have much better flavor and texture than store-bought varieties.

How to prep:

When making homemade croutons, first choose what kind of bread to use: day-old baguettes, rustic airy loaves like ciabatta, English muffins, sandwich bread, rosemary bread, even pita all make interesting croutons. There’s no need to remove the crust. Next, choose the size you want the croutons to be; you can cut sandwich bread and pitas into very small croutons (about 1/4-inch dice) and artisan loaves into larger pieces (1/2-inch dice). For a rustic look, simply rip the bread into pieces.

Depending on the texture you like, you can sauté your croutons or bake your croutons. Sautéed croutons have a pleasing crisp-chewy texture and will be irregularly browned. Baked croutons are crunchier all the way through and more uniformly golden.

Try one of these additions to give your croutons extra flavor:

  • Fresh herbs, such as thyme leaves or chopped sage or rosemary (stir 1 to 2 sprigs’ worth into the butter just before adding the bread).
  • Dried spices, such as pure chile powder, curry powder, crushed fennel, or a spice blend (stir 1/2 to 1 tsp. into the butter just before adding the bread).      
  • Cinnamon sugar for sweet croutons to use in puddings and custards (omit the garlic and toss the croutons in 1 to 2 Tbs. cinnamon sugar right after cooking).
  • Finely grated hard cheeses, such as Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano (toss the croutons with about 3 Tbs. right after cooking).
  • Basil pesto, tapenade, or puréed sun-dried tomatoes (mix a dollop into the butter before adding the bread).
  • Extra smashed garlic for more garlic flavor (but don’t use minced garlic, which tends to burn during sautéing or baking).

 

How to store:

Store homemade croutons in zip-top bags or in airtight foodstorage containers at room temperature for up to three days or in the freezer for several weeks. They also keep in the fridge for several days with only a small loss of crunchiness.

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