The other day, after whining to my friend that something broke into my garden and ate a good portion of my tender, growing lettuce, my friend said, "Well...croutons are my favorite part of a salad. So no loss!"
My initial reaction was, "No loss?!" Then I started thinking about croutons.
To be honest, I hadn't put croutons on a salad in a long time. Was I forgetting how good they were? Mental note: make a batch.
Fast-forward a few days: I'm now a crouton-making machine.
Thankfully, making croutons (and in this case, gluten-free croutons) is an easy kitchen task. Here's what to do:
First, start with fresh gluten-free bread. Some recipes use stale bread for croutons, but the few times I tried that, the finished croutons were so hard that I was worried about the resulting dental work. This never happens with fresh bread. Stale bread works great for breadcrumbs, but I prefer fresh bread for croutons.
Second, add fat. I usually use toss the cubed bread with melted butter. If you are dairy-free, use olive oil. The key, no matter which fat you use, is to coat each cube of bread. I usually use about two tablespoons of melted butter for two cups of cubed bread.
Third, season 'em. I use dried herbs and a light sprinkle of kosher salt. Any dried herbs work well but think about selecting herbs that will complement the salad that the croutons will be served on. For example, dried basil and oregano are perfect for a salad with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. But don't forget about gluten-free spice blends. Lately I find myself reaching for Penzey's Sunny Paris blend. I really like the shallot and dill flavor this blend brings to croutons. (There is one problem with this spice blend: I like it so much that I tend to nibble on the croutons before they make it onto my salad.)
Fourth, toast 'em. You can toast croutons in a skillet or oven. I prefer the oven because it allows me to do other things while the croutons toast. If you'd rather not heat up your oven, toast the bread cubes in a non-stick pan until just golden brown. The key is to toast the croutons without completely drying them out. As soon as the croutons begin to turn golden brown, they're done.
- 2 cups cubed gluten-free bread
- 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried herbs
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
- Kosher salt
To make croutons in the oven. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 °F.
In small bowl, toss together bread and melted butter/oil. All bread cubes should be lightly coated with butter/oil. Add more butter/oil, if needed. Add dried herbs, garlic powder and a light sprinkling of kosher salt. Toss. Each bread cube should be lightly coated with herbs.
Spread cubes on an 18x13-inch baking sheet. Arrange cubes in one layer.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Toss cubes and return to the oven. Bake until croutons are crispy and golden brown, about five minutes. Remove croutons from oven and allow to cool.
To make croutons in a skillet. Follow step two above. Heat one teaspoon butter or oil in a medium (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium high heat until butter is melted and bubbling or until oil is shimmering. Add bread cubes. Toast, stirring occasionally, until croutons are toasted. Remove from pan and allow to cool.