Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Have you ever made croutons? You really ought to. Storebought croutons just can't compare. And they really are quite easy, not to mention fool proof.
I started making croutons back in high school when I was working at a local cafe, and the experience gave me enough of a general idea on how to make croutons that I felt comfortable experimenting after that. Your flavors are limited only to what you can find in your pantry. My regular recipe involves Roasted Red Pepper salad dressing, sun dried tomatoes in oil, and leftover baquette, but any type of oil, any type of flavor and any type of bread can work.
Some fun varieties could be a black olive and onion crouton for greek salads, or a typical garlic and parmesan crouton for caesar salads, or you could even go as far as a cinnamon sugar crouton made with day old croissants for a fruit salad!
Here's my basic recipe for Sundried Tomato Croutons - feel free to tweek at it to make your own variety. Just remember to adjust for ingredients with high sugar levels so that they don't caramelize when you're baking!
Sundried Tomato Croutons:
1/2 leftover baguette
Sundried Tomato or Roasted Red Pepper Salad Dressing (about 1/3 - 1/2 a cup)
3 tbsp Sundried Tomatoes in oil + 1 tbsp oil
Cut your bread into 1 inch cubes. Put them in a medium bowl and pour the Salad Dressing over them. Pour on enough dressing to coat the bread cubes. Snip in the Sundried Tomatoes and drizzle in the tbsp of oil that the Sundried Tomatoes come in. Gently stir together and make sure that all of the cubes are coated. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400 degrees (As a note here, if your oven tends to run hot, go with 375 degrees - these puppies can burn). Spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet, making sure they aren't touching (this step is a bit of a pain, but the ones that touch don't crisp well). Bake for 8 minutes, then take out and stir. If you notice some of them are browning up already, turn your oven down a bit. Bake for another 8 minutes. Check them again; if some are still soggy bake for another 4 minutes. Let them cool and you'll have a yummy crouton that's crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside!
Oh yah, one more thing: when you open the oven to check on them, keep your face (and your nose!) away from the oven. The smell is quite strong and the vapors can burn your nostrils!
As some general tips, make sure the bread you're using is slightly dried up; day old bread will always work better for these things than fresh bread will. My measurements are approximates because, well, I never actually measure. But the thing you are looking for is that you have enough liquid to coat all of the bread and most of the liquid should be oily.
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)