March 18, 2021
With olive oil, Italian seasonings and a sheet pan, it’s easy to toast bread in the oven and make a batch of homemade croutons for salads.
When my younger self learned to eat salads, I didn’t go for the greens first. Instead, I wanted all the crunchy or salty add-ons.
That could be anything from nuts to sunflower seeds to cheese.
And of course, croutons make the cut, too.
In fact, they would take up the so much space that it was more of a bread plate than a salad plate.
Fortunately, I’ve grown up to love leafy greens more than anything else, but that doesn’t mean I skimp on croutons and other extras.
We are always buying baguettes and fresh loaves from the little grocery store in our neighborhood.
They have the most beautiful selection of breads from local bakeries. That makes me think we’re not the only ones doing daily trips to the market for bread.
It’s not unusual for me to go overboard on this lovely bread and end up with too much. Some I will slice and freeze. The rest I will turn into easy homemade croutons that I bake in the oven.
I prefer that the bread has a balance of crust to the interior. Ciabatta and baguettes are my favorites because nearly every crouton ends up with some crust on it.
Then I tear the bread with my hands into jagged, uneven pieces. When you cut it with a knife, you end up with uniform cubes.
What I like about these random, irregular pieces is how they have slight variety in how they toast in the oven. Some turn out more browned than others.
Also, they catch bits of the salad ingredients.
I like to use my own version of an Italian seasoning blend.
It’s a combination of oregano, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Rather than just sprinkling it on the bread, I whisk the dried spices into olive oil. This way more of the seasoning stays on the bread and doesn’t fall off onto the sheet pan.
First, I preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
I tear the bread into pieces being careful to not squish it down, and then I spread it out on a sheet pan.
Next, I whisk together the olive with oregano, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
I pour the olive oil over the bread and use my hands to toss it around, so the bread really sops it up.
It’s important to keep an eye on the croutons as they bake. After the first 10 minutes in the oven, I flip them over to the other side.
Then I give the croutons another 7-10 minutes to bake. They turn out crunchy and toasted to a deep golden brown.
After I eat a couple croutons hot off the sheet pan, I let them cool.
Salads are the most obvious way to eat these homemade croutons, but you can also finish a cozy bowl of tomato soup with a few.
1 loaf ciabatta or 2 baguettes (about 12 ounces)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Tear the bread into 1-inch to 1-1/2-inch pieces. Place the bread on a sheet pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Pour the olive oil over the bread using your hands to toss it around, so all the oil is absorbed. Spread out the bread across the sheet pan in a single layer.
Bake the bread for 10 minutes. Turn it over to the other side. Continue cooking for 7-10 minutes until the croutons are golden brown.
Let them cool before using the croutons in salads or to top soups.
Store in an airtight container.
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