Croutons: Crunchy Nuggets of Frugality
Nothing beats croutons as a way to turn any stale bread into a valued household essential. Forget about store-bought products loaded with artificial ingredients. Virtually any loaf bread can be diced, seasoned, and toasted to make crunchy bits of leftover magic, perfect for sprucing up soups and salads, or just for snacking.
Store croutons in airtight containers for up to two weeks in the cabinet, or freeze them for long-term storage. Excellent breads to use include cornbread, crusty country breads, pumpernickel, or just plain white bread. Once breads become a little stale, they're easier to cut, and quicker to toast into croutons. Here's how:
Use a sharp serrated knife to cleanly cut even-sized cubes from any bread, about ¼- to ½-inch bits. Toss gently with olive oil or vegetable oil (1½ teaspoons per cup of diced bread) and herbs or seasonings (if desired — good options include grated Italian Parmesan cheese; dried herbs such as oregano, basil, or thyme; chopped or granulated garlic; and salt and pepper). Spread croutons in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until croutons are crisp all the way through and starting to brown at the corners. Cool to room temperature before use.