Croutons are a real crowd pleaser. Add them to any salad around here and the interest increases by about 100 percent. The kids come sniffing around the kitchen as soon as the baking tray is out of the oven. “Are those croutons, mom? ” they ask, snatching a few before I can assert the full body block that I do when I want to save dinner for dinner time

I love when so humble and effortless a thing gets such praise. It’s a side benefit that croutons happen to be a great way to use up the bits and bobs of bread from a crusty loaf, and that making your own not only tastes better but is cheaper than buying them.

As far as how to use homemade croutons? I like them tossed in uncomplicated salads made with lettuces and vegetables that are sturdy enough to hold up to the bread’s crunch. Delicate greens and tender fruits aren’t as good a match. Croutons are also a stand-up garnish for soup. The ones pictured above topped bowls of a creamy broccoli soup for dinner last night. The kids didn’t say a word about eating what was effectively a bowl of pureed broccoli, I’m sure thanks to the distraction of the croutons.

Homemade Croutons

Homemade croutons are a revelation. Not only are they excellent on a salad, they are tasty as a snack right off the baking sheet. Feel free to experiment with different types of bread, from levain, to crusty whole grain loaves, and walnut or olive bread.
Servings 2 cups croutons

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf crusty bread , such as levain, batard, or baguette
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 clove minced garlic (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut 2 cups worth of 1-inch square bread cubes. This is probably more than you need for a salad, but plenty will get nibbled away before making it to the bowl.
  3. Pile the cubes on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to work the olive oil into the bread. Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt over the bread. Add garlic or rosemary, if desired, and toss again..
  4. Distribute bread on the baking sheet and bake until the bread is brown around the edges but not to crispy, about 8 minutes. The bread will firm up as it cools.