Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Toasted Croutons

Homemade Toasted Croutons



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Fear Conquered: Homemade Croutons

Why is Ina Garten making her own croutons?!

Three years ago, eagerly watching re-runs of Barefoot Contessa, I watched as Ina toasted bits of bread in a pan. I was both fascinated and confused. Why would someone spend the time to make croutons when buying a pouch of pre-seasoned croutons was so much easier (and maybe even cheaper)? After all, it's just toasted bread.

Only it's not just toasted bread. A good homemade crouton has little in common with the pre-made, pre-seasoned, extra-hard-and-crunchy store-bought croutons found in re-sealable plastic pouches. True, both varieties of croutons are derived from bread and both are toasted, but that's really where the similarities end.

Homemade croutons are light and crispy - never dense and crunchy. They're flavored with a hint of buttery salt and pepper - but the real flavor comes from the bread. They're never stale, never a dental hazard and super-easy to make.

Homemade Toasted Croutons

In fact, croutons can be made out of just about any bread (although I don't recommend pre-sliced, bagged-in-plastic sandwich bread from your local Walmart). I prefer croutons made from homemade baguettes because the disproportionate amount of crispy crust on the baguettes results in a whole pan of marvelously textured croutons. If you don't have any baguettes lying about, I've also made delicious croutons from homemade white and multigrain bread, brioche and even (gasp!) some store-bought artesian breads.

So pick any good bread and you'll have homemade croutons in 10 minutes. You don't really need a recipe and what I've provided below is just my preferred technique. Because if you're starting with good bread, the hard part is over.

Perhaps you're wondering, "What does one do with vast quantities of homemade croutons?" Well, besides just munching on them for the sake of munching, they're the perfect added crunch for otherwise plain-jane food. I use them to dress-up mixed-greens salads, add a nice contracting crunch to bean or broccoli salads, to top creamy soups (like potato, squash, bean, etc) and I even top individual servings of baked mac and cheese with croutons on occasion.

Guacamole Bean Salad w/ Homemade Toasted Croutons

Honestly, once you've sampled your own homemade croutons, you'll find yourself desperately searching for new ways to include them in recipes. Because croutons are really just a tasty excuse to scarf toasted bits of bread. (And you think I'm joking...)



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Photo Tutorial

Oil and Butter Added to Pan
Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.

Butter and Oil Melted Together
Heat until the butter become foamy.

Cubed Baguette Pieces
Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes.

Bread Cubes Added to Oil and Butter
Add the bread to the hot pan and toss to evenly coat all the pieces with butter and oil.


Hot Sauce
You can optionally season with hot sauce - I like Frank's Red Hot.

Salt, Pepper and Hot Sauce Added to Bread
Season the croutons with salt, pepper and optional hot sauce. Toss to distribute the seasonings and continue to toss until the croutons begin to toast.

Homemade Toasted Croutons
Reduce the heat to medium and continue to occasionally move the bread around the pan until the croutons are toasted evenly on all sides.

Homemade Toasted Croutons
Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature before storing.

Croutons Stored in Container
Store in a loosely covered (not air-tight) container for up to 2 days.



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Homemade Toasted Croutons

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 5 min
     Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients (makes 4 cups of croutons)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 cups cubed bread, about 1 1/2 homemade baguettes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until the butter is foamy
  2. While the pan heats, cube the bread with a serrated knife into 1-inch cubes
  3. Add the cubed bread to the hot pan and quickly toss the pieces with a spoon or spatula to evenly coat the bread with the oil and butter; season with salt, pepper and optional hot sauce
  4. Gently toss the bread until the cubes begin to toast, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to occasionally move the bread around the pan until all the cubes are evenly toasted (croutons should be browned and crispy, but not overly hardened or charred)
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and check for seasoning; serve immediately or allow the croutons to cool to room temperature before storing in a loosely covered container
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Hungry for Tips?
  • Hot Pan: Get the pan nice and hot before adding the bread. This helps prevent the croutons from becoming soggy before they begin to toast. Just don't walk away and leave the croutons unattended or they’ll burn before you get back.
     
  • Oil and Butter: Mixing butter and oil in the pan is an old trick to get the flavor from the butter and the higher smoke temperature of the oil. I've tried making croutons with just butter or just oil but I prefer the mix.
     
  • Save for Later: I prefer fresh croutons, but if you're not going to use the croutons immediately, you can then store the cooled croutons in a loosely covered (not air-tight) container for a couple of days. They’re never as crisp as the day you make them but they can still be delicious as a topping.



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12 comments:

  1. Hey, I'm passing you a Liebster Blog Award for being an all around awesome human and great cook. :)

    Happy Wednesday!

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    1. Awwwww, thanks Jen! I had to look this award up to make sure I understood how it works! I'm so excited and I can't wait to share the love! Woot Woot!

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  2. Homemade is the way to go! I can't stand, and never eat the store bought kind, yuck. Too hard and never satisfying. I love the light, crisp texture of the homemade crouton plus it's a ton of fun making the bread : ) Great Post!

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    1. I agree, Jenn! Once I discovered these, I never looked back. They're so fast and easy, it's hard to find a reason NOT to make them ;)

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  3. I never thought of that! Thanks for the tip...and thanks for the support...i just haven't had time to get back to it..you know how that is! :)

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    1. Ismael, I completely understand - last November I didn't blog for a month. And December was just about as bad with all the travel and holidays. Looking forward to your next update, tho...

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  4. Hopped over from a friend's blog and glad I did - You have a neat blog and I look forward to your posts :) croutons looks awesome - My children usually take so much of it, you can miss the soup for the croutons (lol)
    Will try my hand at the homemade ones soon.
    Following you and hope you will visit/follow my blog too
    Cheers, Priya

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    Replies
    1. Thank Priya - appreciate the feedback. I know I've been to your blog before and I was surprised to find I wasn't following! I've added you to my list and thanks for the reminder :)

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  5. Great recipe. I have made croutons before but not as nice as these.Ciao!

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  6. You are so right about homemade croutons! We'd eat them right out of the pan as fast as my mom would make them :)

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    Replies
    1. You're so lucky your mom made them - growing up, I don't think I even know homemade croutons existed! ;) Of course, my mom was pretty darn busy with at least 6 kids in the house most of the time...

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