When I was a kid, a crouton was a little square of seasoned toast that my mother would buy in a bag and toss in salads when company came. As a grown-up, I discovered European-style croutons—thin slices of sturdy bread, brushed with a bit of oil and lightly toasted en route to becoming a landing pad for a smear or strip of something savory.

We use croutons of this second sort, sliced from thin baguettes, both with Strange-Flavor Eggplant and as an extra-crunchy note in our House Salad. I also consume vast amounts of them as shovels for cold springroll filling—one of my favorite midday snacks.

A dense baguette coupled with a good oil makes for a great crouton. Croutons are most flavorful on the day they are toasted; after 2 or 3 days, they taste stale.

Read more

Ingredients

  • 1 day-old baguette (about 2 feet long, weighing ½ pound)
  • Scant ¼ cup corn or peanut oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, smashed

Method

  1. With a serrated knife, cut the baguette crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds. If you’re working a day in advance, leave them in a covered bowl at room temperature; in spite of the cover, they’ll firm up. Or, if you’re wanting to bake them in several hours, spread them on a rack to dry a little.
  2. Combine the oil and garlic. Let stand 30 to 45 minutes to infuse the oil, then discard the garlic.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Move a rack to the middle position.
  4. Arrange the bread rounds side by side on a baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with the infused oil. Bake until light gold, 8 to 10 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway for even coloring.
  5. Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet. For best flavor, use shortly after toasting. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature and use within 1 to 2 days.
Loading
Loading
Loading