One of the things the Accidental Locavore has always appreciated about France is the ability to get a demi-baguette at almost every boulangerie. Since baguettes are meant to be eaten immediately, or certainly by the end of the day, their shelf life is in measured in hours (not weeks, like some of our breads). While American baguettes have a slightly longer shelf life, you’re usually required to buy a whole one (and of course, ours are bigger…), so we generally have most of one lying around getting stale. If I remember to catch them before they’re so stale you could use them to hit a hardball, I chop them up and make breadcrumbs. All you do is cut (or rip) the bread into ½” slices, cut those in half and pop them in a food processor. Process until the crumbs are a size that you like. I keep mine in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, ready for action.
This morning, I started working on our leftover baguette from the great cheese and charcuterie board Frank put together for le 14 juillet. I had cut it into such perfect slices that it occurred to me that croutons might be a better use for this than the usual breadcrumbs. Here’s how they came together:
- 2/3 of a baguette, cut into ¾” slices and then quarter the slices
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, put thorough a press (optional)
- Large pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°. Put the melted butter, olive oil, salt, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Add the bread and toss until well coated. Put on a cookie sheet or hotel pan and cook until golden-brown, about 8 minutes. Put on a wire rack to cool. Store in a Ziploc in the freezer or toss these in soups or salads and enjoy!
My verdict: True confession, when I make Caesar salad, I generally use commercial croutons. Not anymore! These were so easy and delicious, and a look at the ingredients on the back of the crouton bag just made me cringe. I would have liked a bit more salt in them, but I held back. You could also toss them in some Parmesan, herbs (I kept eyeing a big bunch of basil on the counter), whatever strikes your fancy. You can also flavor them to go with what you’re serving. Almost any type of bread will work, although I’m not a big fan of croutons made with soft white breads.