Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Humble Crouton

So day two strikes and how do I tackle it?  With the humble crouton.  The delicious little chunks of bread found in soups and Caesar salads all over the world.  But I wanted to do something different to jazz up my salad this evening.  So here are three different recipes for croutons - and one is gluten free!

Garlic Croutons - my personal favourite!

Using a bread knife slice up a baguette into pieces about half a centimetre thick.  Place slices without overlapping onto a non-stick baking tray.  Cover with a good drizzle of good quality olive oil - enough to make sure that each crouton gets at least a little.  Then cut a head of garlic in half and scatter amongst the croutons - to get a really strong taste try squashing garlic cloves onto a chopping board with the back of a knife.  Place in an moderately hot oven - between 180 and 200 degrees and let them toast in there for about 10 minutes or until crunchy.  Leave to cool on tray.

Brown Butter Croutons

Same as above in preparing the bread.  Brown a good dollop (at least a tablespoon) of butter in a saucepan on high heat and allow the butter to change from a yellowy colour to brown.  This process is called browning the butter.  Doing this makes the butter have a more nutty and solid flavour.  Place croutons in the butter and toss quickly to make sure they are covered on both sides - they will absorb the butter very quickly!  Allow to cook slightly in the pan before removing croutons and placing them on a non-stick pan.  Repeat this step enough times to cover and cook all your croutons.  Sprinkle croutons with Herbs De Provence Sea Salt - a mix of salt, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, lavender and fennel (you can get this at most supermarkets or at specialty food stores).  Bake croutons in a moderately hot oven - between 180 and 200 degrees for 10 minutes or until browned and crunchy.  Leave to cool on tray.

Gluten-Free Croutons with Sea Salt

When I make anything gluten-free I try to find great products.  Gluten-free baked goods have a reputation of tasting and having the texture of cardboard - if you do a little research and are happy to spend a few extra dollars there are some great gluten-free alternatives out there!  For this recipe I used Lifestyle Bakery's White loaf.  Rip up approximately 6 slices of the bread into smaller chunks and place on a non-stick baking tray.  Cover bread with good quality olive oil and a very generous pinch of coarse sea salt and dried rosemary.  Place the tray in a moderately hot oven - approximately 180 to 200 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.  My experience with gluten-free croutons is that they tend to take a little longer in the oven - so keep an eye on them!

Tonight I had the Brown Butter Croutons with a very basic and thrown together Caesar Salad.

Basic Casear salad with Brown Butter Croutons.

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