I hesitate to write this for fear of sounding like I’m bragging, but when it comes to baguettes I am spoiled for choice: within a five-minute walk of my house there are four boulangeries that have won the Best Baguette in Paris award at some point (including one two-time winner!) and three or four more whose baguette skills are very much on par.
This means we never want for a crusty, pointy loaf to go with our soups and our cheese and our spreads, but it also means the temptation of buying a fresh one often leads us to neglect the end section of the previous one, which soon goes stale in its kitchen towel.
Throwing out bread is out of the question, and my go-to trick to upcycle these leftovers is to make croûtons. It takes just about five minutes to cube the baguette and toss it with olive oil, dried herbs, a bit of garlic, and a touch of salt; another ten to bake the croûtons to golden perfection. To save energy, I usually season the croûtons when I have time, then set them aside and wait until I’ve fired up the oven for another use to slip them in.
The resulting croûtons are a treat in and of themselves, but I also like to keep a container at the ready to add to my clean-the-fridge soups, my grated carrots and beets salads, and whatever else would seem to benefit from a crunchy finish.
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Do you buy or make your own croûtons? What do you like to flavor them with, and use them in?
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- 150 grams (1/3 pound) stale baguette (2-3 days old)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano...)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and have ready a rimmed baking sheet.
- Cut the baguette into small cubes. (I start by cutting the bread in slices, then lay 3 or 4 slices flat on the cutting board and cut those into cubes.)
- In a medium bowl, put the cubed bread, salt, herbs, and garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to combine. (This can be made ahead of time and kept for a few hours, covered and at room temperature, until you've heated up the oven for another use.)
- Spread the seasoned cubes on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, flipping the croutons halfway through, until nicely golden.
- Season with pepper and allow to cool completely. The croutons will keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.