Home-made Croutons

Sometimes I think that the easy availability of certains kinds of processed foods makes some people feel that those foods must be difficult or time-consuming to make at home. In most cases, not so. We just need someone to point out that there's a better way! I remember making my first croutons when I was around 20 years old. I was cooking for a bunch of people, and looking for some other ideas for salads. Someone suggested topping a salad with home-made croutons ("they're not hard to make"), and that changed everything.

Soon, every salad had to be topped with croutons, and I had to keep an eye on the pan after it came out of the oven, since anyone who wandered by would swipe a few - and then wander back to swipe a few more!

Croutons are technically better when made with stale bread, but they can be easily made with any hearty loaf. If using a fresh loaf of white bread, it's best to dry out the slices a bit first. Of course, the flavour will be greatly enhanced with a homemade bread, sourdough bread, or a good-quality, sturdy store-bought bread.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil

1 - 3 tsp herbs (your choice: such as basil, thyme, sage, tarragon, oregano, parsley, etc)

1/4 tsp sea salt

a few grinds of black pepper, optional

METHOD

Drizzle the oil over the bread, and gently stir / toss to coat. Sprinkle the herbs, salt and pepper over the cubes, and stir again.

Spread the mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast at 325F until crisp. This may take 7 - 15 minutes, depending on the size and density of your bread cubes.

Let the croutons cool on the tray before using them in salads.

This recipe is easily scaled up for larger batches. Use the same proportions for each cup of bread cubes.