Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Croutons

Isn't it funny how there are some categories of items that you don't think of making for yourself?  This occurred to me as I prepared Easter dinner; while I expect to grow my own greens and veggies, sometimes I forget that things like salad dressings and croutons are also easy to make in a way that is fast, cheap, and good.

So, this Easter I made my own croutons.  (I have a couple of bottles of store-bought salad dressing to use up, then I will start making my own.  More to come on that!)  The crouton project is as easy as can be, and it is a super-cheap way to create really high-quality croutons for your salad.

First, I baked a loaf of Four Ingredient French Bread, altering the flour mix to 2 cups of white and 1 cup of whole wheat.  Most recipes for croutons will tell you to use stale bread, but if I wait for a loaf of stale homemade bread around this house, I'll never have croutons!

I cut the loaf into thick slices and then 1-inch cubes.  I tossed the cubes in butter, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dried basil from the garden (you could use oregano, sage, or many others, depending on what flavor you want for your salad).  And then I baked in a 350 degree oven until toasty-crisp on the outside and still a bit soft on the inside. 

On our Caesar salad, they looked pretty and tasted wonderful.  I'll be making my own from now on.

The Analysis

Fast:  Yes, this took more time than buying a package of those powdery, preservative-filled things from the store.  But I have bread-baking down to a science, and I baked the croutons while something else was in the oven, so I don't feel like I was really overworked on this.

Cheap:  I'm sure that, if I shopped for a sale and used a coupon, I could get the store variety for less than I spent on the bread ingredients, but I think these compare pretty favorably to the retail price of a bag of croutons.  After all, the bread itself is really less than $1 in ingredients, and I used maybe a tablespoon or two of butter.  That's it.

Good:  This is the reason to make your own.  These really elevated a simple salad, and I was so glad to have that nice touch!
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