3 May 2015

Croutonology ~ make your own Croutons, cheap, easy and better

Firstly I’d like to mention another of those strange National Days – Saturday was World Naked Gardening Day. I’m sorry if you missed it but, then again, the weather wasn’t great. 

gardener-wanted

Right, to the matter in hand – croutons (it is after all Real Bread Week very soon!)

In Tesco recently I noticed little bags of Fresh Gourmet croutons for sale (I’ve seen them before, of course, but never taken any notice till now) – 75p for 28g (1 ounce). What a surprise! Apparently they contain the following ...

bought-in-crouton-ingredients

I got this information from a very useful site FoodFacts which I have added to the useful links in the sidebar 

As, for instance, a fresh 100g loaf of Tesco’s Crusty Farmhouse is 70p you could, buying a loaf specially, make almost six times as many croutons for the same price! Your homemade croutons would be fresh and flavoured to you precise requirements without resorting to chemical and additives And it’s so very easy!

Not only that; croutons are a great way of using up crusts and ends and stale pieces of bread (which I presume you have been adding to your freezer collection) and other things too – see below.

Make your Own Croutons


Firstly, as I have said before I do hold very strong beliefs so far as croutons on concerned; which are that in almost all cases the bread or other item should be torn rather than diced. This creates a lot more little points and edges to go all crispy and they look so much prettier too. They are also best baked although frying is an alternative, more about this later.



This is what you do ...

~   Preheat oven to a medium sort of heat, say 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5 (or more economically  bung them in for a few minutes whilst something else is cooking).
~   Tear (or in rare occasions cut) you croutons to the size you prefer.
~   Drizzle with a little olive (or bacon fat, or butter as appropriate) to lightly moisten, season and toss all together.
~   Spread on a baking tray and bake till crisp and golden. This doesn’t take long, 5-10 minutes, so keep an eye on them.

If you prefer to fry your croutons then treat the bread exactly the same but toss them about in a dry frying pan over medium high heat till crisp and brown. The result will not be quite so uniform or as crisp right through to the middle, you may need a little more oil and, of course, you have to be attentive, but still your croutons will be fresh and tasty and perfect for you.

Another bonus of homemade croutons is they are lovely hot, fresh from the oven, with soup and other hot dishes.

To Season Croutons


~   Salt and pepper (doh!)
~   Garlic or onion powder if you keep such things in – I don’t, but they can be useful.
~   Dried herbs
~   Spice mixes such as Mexican spice or Jerk seasoning or garam masala etc. - here's a post I did about some good spice mixes.
~   Chilli flakes - cautiously.
~   Bacon salt or other seasoned salts, eg. smoked.

Different Fats and Oils


I mostly use a light olive oil but in certain cases, such as cakes or other sweet croutons, butter is better. Or try ...

~   Bacon fat – not very good for you but delicious with cheese soups.
~   Oil mixed with something else for instance a little balsamic vinegar.
~   Flavoured oils such as chilli or garlic or the oil resulting from roasting garlic   or yummy black garlic oil.



Additions to Croutons


~   Cheese is a good addition, grate some hard cheese such as Parmesan or mature Cheddar and toss it into the croutons when they are fully cooked. Pop back into the oven for 30 seconds or so melt it.
~   Stir a little soft buttery cooked onion into the bread pieces before baking.
~   Finely chopped garlic.
~   Grated lemon zest.
~   Fresh herbs.
~   Toss shredded ham or chorizo with the bread before cooking and it will go crispy too.


Alternative Bread and Cake Croutons


~   White sliced bread will make for a very crisp and fragile croutons and is one of the few ways I actually like this type of bread.
~   More solid and rustic breads make more solid and rustic croutons, delicious but need a good suck if you haven’t got your teeth in!
~   Brioche is good, use butter with it, of course.
~   Croissants are excellent because they have all sorts of crisp flakes and crevices.


~   Hot cross buns (see the photo at the top of this post) make lovely sweet spicy croutons to serve with ice cream or maybe a fruit dish. Use butter and a little soft light brown sugar.
~   Plain cake also makes lovely croutons for ice cream – butter and sugar again. (The recipes for the luscious no-churn coffee ice cream and its sauce in this picture are in my genius ice cream recipe book).

Uses for Croutons other than Soup


It is only natural to want to serve croutons with soup but thee are other ways ...

~   Make small crouton and sprinkle onto creamy pasta dishes for a lovely texture contrast, or make big flat ones and call them croûtes!


~   Add to salads and not just Caesar Salad.
~   Instead of baking or frying the croutons, pile the torn bread on top of a hot cooked pie filling and bake till crisp for a different sort of crust.



See also my post on Pangrattato - posh word for crispy, tasty breadcrumbs which are great for improving almost any meal!





Pin It!