When I was a kid, my gramma would always tell me to “eat the crusts, they’ll make your hair curly”. She might as well have told me to “eat the crusts, they’ll make your face fall off”. The last thing I wanted back then was curly hair. But I was an obedient child and did eat my crusts. Perhaps that’s why I now have very curly hair.
So if you like curly hair, try making my country croutons. If you prefer it straight, better stick to the city croutons. Just to be sure.
Hair theories aside, most of us like to be thrifty We don’t like wasting food we spent good money on, right? Since there’s only two of us in my house, a loaf of bread tends to be too much, and at least a few slices go stale in every loaf.
I love salads, especially with croutons, and usually throw a few croutons on my soup too, so those stale slices never go to waste. Making croutons is fun and easy and you get to play with scissors!
City croutons are delicate and airy, lightly seasoned. I like them on green salads, especially if I have a flavorful dressing. These croutons play nicely with others and will still let your dressing stand out.
Country croutons are bold and strong. They’re better suited to toss into a bowl of tomato soup (along with a bit of cheese, yum.) They’re also great in salads, but keep in mind the flavor mixing and matching as you combine your greens, veggies, nuts, whatevers. And why not try them on chili?
These recipes are very basic. There’s tons of wiggle-room for you to use your favorite spices and seasonings. If at first you don’t succeed, you know there’s always going to be more stale bread in your future. Just try again!
Lay slices of bread out to dry. You don’t want them to be rock-hard, but you don’t want them to be fresh, either. Aim for dry, and not spongy when pressed with a fingertip.
Grab your kitchen shears. If you don't have any, a basic pair of scissors works just fine. Be sure to wash them before using them with food.
Cut the crusts off. Aim for rectangles of center-cut bread. Set the crusts aside; you will be using them too!
Prepare your seasoning mix. City croutons are very light and crisp, and would benefit from lighter seasonings. In a small bowl, blend your choice and quantities of seasonings. Some suggestions: garlic powder, cracked pepper, oregano, parsley, finely chopped chives, lemon pepper. This is your chance to show your creativity and individuality.
Cut the crustless pieces of bread into small squares, and place them in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Heat oven to 250 degrees.
Using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, lightly oil a cookie or baking sheet.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the bread squares and toss them lightly to distribute it.
Sprinkle your seasoning mix over the bread squares and toss lightly once more.
Scatter the bread squares evenly over the pan, making sure they are only one layer deep.
Place the sheet of bread squares in the oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, but check often as bread type and moisture content will alter cooking time.
Remove croutons from oven when they are lightly brown and dry to the touch.
Prepare your seasoning mix. Country croutons, because they are made from bread crusts, are sturdier than city croutons and would benefit from heartier seasonings. In a small bowl, blend your choice and quantities of seasonings. Some suggestions: garlic powder, cracked pepper, paprika, chili powder, dry onion, Cajun mixes and other pre-blended spicy seasonings. If you plan to use the croutons in soup, keep your spices compatible with the soup's flavors.
Take the bread crusts you set aside earlier, and cut them into small squares.
Follow the instructions for city croutons starting at the third step, heating the oven, through the last step. (The only difference in the recipe is the spice blend and use of the bread crusts)
City and Country Croutons
Lori Alden Holuta
Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.