salads,  soups + stews

Crunchy + Garlicky Croutons

This is an open letter to Mrs. Kitchens, my former neighbor and babysitting employer.

Dear Mrs. Kitchens,

There was this one occasion when I babysat your kids that I found a container of crunchy bread chunks in the pantry. Those chunks were so savory + buttery that I started eating them–just one or two each time I walked through the kitchen. What harm was there in eating a few toasted pieces of bread?

Well, I am not sure what happened next…things are a little foggy…but the next thing I remember was seeing the bottom of the container, unobstructed.  I had eaten ALL the bread.

So I write this open letter addressing my devouring your crunchy bread chunks, the ones you intended to use that night for your fancy dinner party. I can’t imagine your ire upon discovering that the container you reached for in the pantry was empty. That must have been tough. But in my defense, you did a really good job of making them, so it is only partially my fault. They were so absolutely magnificent I just.couldn’t.stop.

I apologize.

Yours truly, 

Ann Beth

True story.

If she ever asked me to babysit again, I don’t recall because I was wallowing in a carby crouton coma for at least a month. The only best coma of my life.

Why? Because croutons = butter + garlic + BREAD. Hooray for croutons!

Making these Crunchy + Garlicky Croutons is super easy. So easy, in fact, that you will never buy store croutons again. You simply coat a pan with oil + garlic paste, then toss in some bread cubes + butter + herbs and saute until crisp + light brown. Voila!

Why oil and butter? If you had to choose only one, choose oil, especially if you are concerned with fat or animal products. Olive oil helps to keep croutons from becoming soggy because it prevents them from soaking up too much moisture. I use olive oil + butter for two reasons:

1. Olive oil has a higher burn point than butter (olive oil’s burn point is 410 degrees F; butter’s is 300 degrees F).
2. Olive oil provides a nutty + fruity flavor while butter’s flavor is, well, buttery.

Why garlic paste and not fresh garlic? I love fresh garlic, but garlic burns easily, which can make the croutons bitter. I use garlic paste and mix it with the oil before adding the bread. There is less chance of burning, and the  fats are infused with garlic which results in deliciously irresistible garlicky croutons.

Why use a bread knife? A serrated bread knife will saw through bread whereas non-serrated knives will smush your bread as you apply pressure for cutting.

When making your own croutons, you have so many options:

  • the bread you use–French baguette, whole wheat, pumpernickel, rye…
  • the herbs or toppings you choose–garlic, chives, parsley, dill, thyme, rosemary, cheese…
  • the size of crouton–bite-sized or mini bread barges…
  • what you do with them–toss them into salads, float them in your soups, steal them out of your neighborlady’s secret stash…  

So while store bought croutons will do in a pinch, I want you to ask yourself: doesn’t food deserve better? Come on, just take the 5 minutes to do this. Do it for the salad. Do it for the soup. You will NEVER.LOOK.BACK. And while you’re at it, make a double recipe because half of them will mysteriously disappear.

Your homemade Crunchy + Garlicky Croutons will keep beautifully in an airtight container at room temp for a couple of days. They are great to snack on (I speak from experience) and wash nice nicely with an effervescent wine.

So who is ready for a crouton coma?

Enjoy!

XXOO  AB

If you make these Crunchy + Garlicky Croutons I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and tag #nakedepicurean on Instagram so we can celebrate together!

Crunchy + Garlicky Croutons (4 cups)

INGREDIENTS (4 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 4 cups cubed bread (at least 1 day old)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
  • freshly ground S+P, to taste
DIRECTIONS

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic paste and stir to combine.  Add the bread cubes. Toss to coat evenly for crispier croutons. Continue tossing until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Add remaining butter and herbs to pan, swirling to melt; toss and cook croutons 5 minutes longer. Add S+P to taste. Set aside to cool.

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