Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homemade Croutons

This recipe is inspired by Barb's totally amazing homemade croutons. When Ryan and I were last up in Oregon, she pulled out these deliciously crunchy croutons for our dinner salad. How genius of her to make her own croutons. I never thought to make my own, which seems strange seeing as how I have a mild crouton addiction. Wait, no. Correction. I have a HUGE crouton addiction. I will seriously skip the salad part (bad, I know) and just eat the croutons straight from the bag. I have not done this in a long, long time, but I have been known to just eat croutons for dinner. They are just so crunchy and delicious! When you make them yourself, you can use any flavor you want. Even better, you know that there are no preservative and you can watch the sodium too (store bought ones are loaded with salt!).

So, after making the crusty Italian bread that was a little too crusty for me, I knew it would be the perfect time to try the croutons. Since the loaf was so large, I cut up the whole thing into about one inch chunks (of course you can make yours smaller or bigger if you want to) and put half of them in a ziploc for the freezer and then used the other half for croutons. Of course you could use the other half for homemade bread crumbs, but that's for another day and another post. We're all about croutons today!

These crunchy and crusty bites are the perfect amount of garlic and parmesan cheese. All you need is olive oil, bread, garlic, parmesan cheese (not the stuff in the green can) and salt and pepper. That's it! The most important part is to let the garlic infuse the oil at room temperature for an hour or two. This will get that oil nice and garlicky, which we all know I love. Again, another obsession - garlic. If you have a loaf of crusty bread that you just don't know what to do with, make these bad boys. They are great on salad, soup or just to eat by themselves. Once you try one, you will have a hard time putting them down. Don't say I didn't warn you.

mmm, croutons

garlic and olive oil getting all delicious

look at that garlic!

garlic oil and bread

mountain of cheese

almost ready to bake

after the first 15 minutes of baking

ready to eat!

Homemade Croutons
4 cups cubed day old bread
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, place olive oil and garlic. Let sit at room temperature for at least one hour. Add your cubed bread into a large bowl - large enough to toss everything together. Once the garlic and oil are ready, strain the oil over the top of the bread and mix to coat. Then, add 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan cheese. Toss to coat and add salt and pepper.

Lay out the coated croutons on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes and give them a toss. Bake for another 15 minutes. Then, take them out and sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until browned and cooked. Let cool completely on baking sheet before storing.

This recipe is great because it is so simple and you can really switch up the flavors to whatever you like. If you like it with a kick of heat - sprinkle on some cayenne pepper. If you are not a garlic lover, you could always just do olive oil and some salt and pepper. The bread is a blank canvas, so have fun and make some croutons!

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