Make your own croutons! This stovetop recipe for croutons is easy and delicious. The flavor of the rustic sourdough crouton complements any soup or salad, while adding a bit of heat.
It’s 5 PM and we shut the doors at the coffee shop. The vacuum starts whirling, we start taking apart the espresso machine to clean it, and one of us starts to put away the food on display. The fresh sweets get lined up in a tupperware for tomorrow; everything else gets piled in a bag for us baristas to take home. Inevitably, the crusty ends of the rustic sourdough, which doesn’t make the cut to be served to the customers, lands in the bag that is sent home. Every so often, when we are lucky, we snag a few slices of the chewy part of the bread too.
After several months of eating crusty sourdough ends, feeling torn between the the dread of eating more bread, and the guilt of throwing away perfectly crafted sourdough by one of the best artisan bakers in London, I found myself desperate to avoid that bag at the end of the day. How many ways could I use leftover sourdough? Sourdough dipped in olive oil. Slathered in butter. Used to make sandwiches – yes, practical. Grilled as bruschetta – ah, now I have dinner. Dipped in egg and turned into french toasts – a lovely Saturday brunch. Dried and processed into bread crumbs – messy but easy. Baked into a bread pudding – eh, didn’t quite work – a sour and sweet dessert. My creativity was coming to an end.
Honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that leftover crusty sourdough is perfect for croutons! So easy, so delicious, and so versatile! There are many crouton recipes out there, but really, it boils down to a few different variables. Here’s what I ended up doing and why:
Croutons Made on the Stovetop vs. Croutons Made in the Oven
Making croutons on the stovetop allows you to constantly toss the croutons around in the pan, giving you an even crunch on all six sides of the crouton. Using a wok is the easiest, since you have more room to toss the croutons. It’s also easier to control the temperature and cooking time, since the stovetop is more responsive. In the oven though, you can leave the croutons alone for about 10 minutes at a time, so you can do something else on the side.
Croutons Made with Butter vs. Croutons Made with Oil
As a snack or in soup – all butter. On a salad of mixed greens – oil. The butter gives the croutons a richer deeper flavor, but if serving the croutons with a salad that is tossed in an oil based dressing, I use olive oil to give continuity to the flavors.
What Kind of Bread to Use for Making Croutons
Mostly any bread will work, but a rustic bread with a crackling crust will give the croutons the most complete profile. Keeping the crust on the bread will give the croutons different colors and textures. The uneven holes in a loaf of rustic bread will trap the butter and spices to boost the flavor. Wheat, rye, and sourdough breads will also give the croutons a layer of flavor that can’t be achieved by spices alone.
Croutons with Rustic Sourdough Bread and Red Pepper Infused Butter
- 1/2 large loaf rustic sourdough bread - cut into about 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups total)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Melt the butter in a wok on medium heat.
Add in the garlic salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the butter for about 5 minutes, to let the red pepper flakes infuse into the butter.
Turn up the heat to medium-high. Add in the cubed bread, stirring constantly, and turning the cubed bread so each side is coated in butter.
Slowly sprinkle in the thyme, tossing the bread while doing so.
Continue to toss and turn the bread cubes about once every minute for about 15 minutes.
The croutons are done when all the sides of the bread cubes are a light golden brown.