Croutons


A big payoff: You turn leftover bread into a pantry staple.
TIME 15 to 25 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
½ large loaf any high-quality bread
2 to 4 tablespoons butter, softened, or olive oil


Method
1 Heat the oven to 400°F. If the bread isn’t sliced, cut it into slices about ½ inch thick (or thicker if you’d like). You should have 8 or more slices.

2 Smear 1 side of each slice with butter or brush with olive oil. Cut each slice into halves, quarters, or large or small cubes as you like. Spread the bread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; if they touch a bit, that’s fine, but don’t overlap them.

3 Put the pan in the oven and toast the bread, turning the slices or tossing the cubes with a spatula as needed, for 10 to 20 minutes, until all the sides are lightly browned, depending on how thick the pieces are. Let cool to room temperature and serve right away or store in an airtight container for up to several days.

Variations
  • Toast: Ideal for a crowd. Cut the bread into slices about ½ inch thick. If you like, smear with butter or drizzle with olive oil before baking (or after). Spread the slices on the baking sheet as described in Step 2 and continue with the recipe.
  • Seasoned Croutons: Before toasting, sprinkle the bread with salt and pepper, followed by 1 tablespoon chili or curry powder.
  • Garlicky Croutons: In Step 2, stir 1 or 2 tablespoons minced garlic into the butter or oil before spreading or brushing on the bread.

Tips
  • You don’t have to use any fat on the bread; it’ll crisp up anyway. But the flavor is much improved if you do.
  • To soften hard butter, put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time on low. Or just let it sit out at room temperature for a while.

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