Now that many of us have embraced the world of sourdough baking, I’m sure we all know what it feels like to reach the end of the week and realize that you have just the smallest amount of bread leftover. Today, I’m here to plead with you: Please don’t toss the old bread! Instead, make some homemade croutons.
Don't Toss Your Old Bread
As I mentioned, old bread doesn’t need to be tossed. In fact, when it comes to sourdough, the bread will keep for about two weeks in the fridge. As one baker told me, “Sourdough just gets better with age.” It may not taste as good on day 8 as it did fresh out of the oven, but it will still make fantastic toast or may be used in multiple other ways. Here are a few ideas.
1. Make croutons: We’ll talk about how to do this today.
2. Make breadcrumbs: Preheat the oven to 300F. Slice the bread in thin slices. Place on a sheet pan and toast the bread until dry (about 30 minutes). Once fully dry, tear the bread into smaller pieces and pulse in your food processor until you have breadcrumbs. Store in the freezer for a few months.
3. Make french toast: You can go with traditional sliced bread or tear the bread into pieces or cut in strips. Dip in milk, eggs, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Then cook in butter on the stove-top.
How to Make Croutons From Scratch
First, store-bought croutons aren’t even in the same league as homemade croutons. There’s no way they can compare. If you’ve never had a homemade crouton, get ready because your crouton world is about to be forever changed. Not only that, but store-bought croutons are made with a bunch of un-needed ingredients.
Let’s take a look at a popular brand of croutons…
Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Canola And/Or Sunflower Oil, Seasoning [Sugar, Whey, Salt, Romano Cheese (Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Enzymes), Parmesan Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Tomato*, Garlic*, Natural Flavor (Including Autolyzed Yeast Extract), Vinegar*, Spices, Parsley], Salt, Water, Yeast, Natural Butter Flavor (A Milk Ingredient), Malted Barley Flour, Citric Acid And/Or Tocopherols Added To Maintain Freshness
Yes, many of those ingredients are bread ingredients, but what about butter flavor? And natural flavor? Remember when we talked about natural flavoring in the 9 Healthy Food Swaps post? Natural flavoring is a mystery word that can made up of many different chemicals blended together to give an ultra-processed food flavor. Plus, the presence of canola and sunflower oils, both of which are ultra-processed oils is enough to avoid this “food.”
Making croutons should only require three ingredients: bread (flour, water, salt, and natural yeast), salt, and olive oil. That’s it! The bread should be old, almost or already stale bread, as it’s drier than fresh-out-of-oven bread.
If you choose to add more flavoring to your croutons, then a real food cheese may be shredded and added (such as parmesan) or you could even add some minced anchovies or dried or fresh herbs or fresh minced garlic.
There are two options for making your croutons:
- Stove-Top Method: Add olive oil to a skillet, followed by torn bread pieces. Cook until crisp. Add any flavorings like garlic, dried herbs, minced anchovies while cooking. Add parmesan cheese or fresh herbs at the end.
- Oven Method: Toss torn bread pieces with olive, salt, and any dried herbs or garlic (if desired). Toast the croutons in the oven until crispy.
How to Store Homemade Croutons
Once your croutons are made, use them immediately or allow the croutons to cool and store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
How to Use Homemade Croutons
There are a number of ways to use homemade croutons.
- Salad: The classic way to use croutons. Add croutons to any salad for extra crunch. Learn how to make an amazing salad in this post.
- Tomato Soup: Top homemade tomato soup with croutons. Any creamed soup (like this butternut squash soup or cauliflower soup) makes the perfect base for homemade croutons.
- Panzanella: Basically a bread salad. I know, perfection! Toss homemade croutons with cherry tomatoes, onions, and basil.
Easy Homemade Croutons
- 2 cups bread cut or torn into 1” cubes--old, almost stale or already stale bread
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- pinch salt
- chopped fresh herbs such as: 2 tablespoons - 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
- dried herbs such as: 1 teaspoon Italian Herbs
- minced garlic such as: 2-4 garlic cloves minced
- grated parmesan cheese such as: 2 tablespoons -1/4 cup grated parm
For the Oven Method:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Toss the bread squares in the olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add dried herbs or fresh garlic or parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to combine with the bread. Parchment is optional if your baking sheet doesn't have an issue with food sticking. Sprinkle the bread with a pinch of salt.
- Bake until the bread is crispy, or about 15 minutes. If using fresh herbs, add after making and toss with the croutons.
For the Stove-Top Method:
- Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread squares and mix with the oil until lightly coated. If using dried herbs or garlic, add to the skillet and mix to combine with the bread. Spread the croutons into a single layer in the skillet.
- Once the croutons start to brown, flip to brown on the other side. Once browned on both sides, remove from heat and allow to cool. If using parmesan or fresh herbs, add and toss with the croutons after turning off the heat.