Monday, May 28, 2012


I was recently asked to share my crouton recipe. The thing is, it’s not really a recipe, and I can’t say anything about actual amounts, since I tend to eyeball the whole thing. But what I DO have is a procedural difference. I decided a while ago to make my croutons differently from what the standard recipes require.

Most recipes have you cut up & dry out the bread cubes and then add oil & spices. This only puts the flavor of the spices onto the surface of the croutons. What I do is soak the bread cubes in oil & spices BEFORE drying them out; this allows the oil to transport the flavors of the spices all the way through the bread cubes. The result is much, much more flavorful.

So, here’s what I use:
  • a 1 gallon ziplock bag
  • a brown paper lunch bag
  • 3-4 cups of bread cubes (I use stale bread of all sorts. I recently got fabulous results from some pumpernickel bagels; no lie.)
  • a healthy dose of olive oil (I end up using ⅓ - ½ c.)
  • spices (we like really spicy croutons, so I tend to start with a whole lot of Zataran’s Creole spice and sometimes add some extra red pepper flake; were I doing Italian soups, I would use a whole bunch of thyme, oregano, and probably garlic. Use what you like, and use a whole lot more than you think you need.)
And here’s what I do:
  1. Cut the bread into cubes of a size you find pleasing. For us, the center-cut cubes tend to be just under ½" on a side, and edges are smaller.
  2. Put the bread cubes into the brown paper bag and the paper bag into the ziplock.
  3. Glug a bunch of olve oil onto the bread.
  4. Add the spices.
  5. Fold down the brown paper bag and close the ziplock.
  6. Shake it up baby. Now, twist & shout.
  7. Every couple of hours, shake the bag and set it with a different side down. Notice that the oil leaking through the brown paper has taken on the color of the spices.
  8. Go to bed.
  9. Wake up & shake some more, then set it down with a different side u.p.
  10. Go to work.
  11. Come home, shake, & rotate some more.
  12. Pour the oily, spicy bread cubes out onto a baking sheet, one layer deep.
  13. Bake at 200°F, checking & stirring occasionally untl the cubes are very dry indeed.
  14. Put the croutons into an air-tight container and use them a bit at a time in soups.
See? It’s not so much a matter of spices (which can be changed to taste) but procedure. You want the oil to have lots of time to spread the flavors all the way to the middle of the croutons. The and only then do you dry them out.

That’s the dealio.