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.)
- 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.
- Put the bread cubes into the brown paper bag and the paper bag into the ziplock.
- Glug a bunch of olve oil onto the bread.
- Add the spices.
- Fold down the brown paper bag and close the ziplock.
- Shake it up baby. Now, twist & shout.
- 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.
- Go to bed.
- Wake up & shake some more, then set it down with a different side u.p.
- Go to work.
- Come home, shake, & rotate some more.
- Pour the oily, spicy bread cubes out onto a baking sheet, one layer deep.
- Bake at 200°F, checking & stirring occasionally untl the cubes are very dry indeed.
- Put the croutons into an air-tight container and use them a bit at a time in soups.
That’s the dealio.