|Making croutons (Flickr photo by Tracy Benjamin)|
1. Plain Croutons: Cut slices of bread into 1/2" cubes, spread in a shallow baking pan and bake at 300°F until dry and crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and allow to cool before using. Store, after completely cooled, in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag.
2. Seasoned Croutons: Lightly brush slices of bread with olive oil or melted butter, then cut into 1/2" cubes and spread in shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with desired herbs and seasonings: Italian herbs, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, sea salt & cracked black pepper, BBQ seasoning rub, etc. Bake as above.
3. Cheese Croutons: Follow instructions for Seasoned Croutons; after you remove from oven, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese or other cheese while still hot, then allow to cool.
4. Bacon Croutons: Fry a few slices of bacon until completely crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels and reserve the fat. Lightly brush slices of bread with rendered bacon fat, then cut into 1/2" cubes. Spread cubes in shallow baking pan and bake per above. While croutons are baking, finely crumble the bacon after it has cooled (easiest if you place cooled slices in a plastic baggie and crush with a rolling pin or the flat side of a meat mallet). After croutons are out of the oven but while they're still hot, sprinkle with the finely crumbled bacon (you can also add grated cheese at this time if desired). Allow to cool thoroughly before use. Store leftover bacon croutons in an airtight container or plastic baggie in the refrigerator.
What's your favorite recipe for homemade croutons? Please share in a comment below.