Croutons are crispy baked or fried pieces of bread and they are a great way to finish off a soup or salad. Whether you are going to make Caesar salad or a bowl of hot pumpkin soup, croutons add flavor and crunch to the meal and it is very easy to make them yourself.
You can buy readymade croutons but homemade croutons taste fresher and you can also choose which type of bread to use and add your own herbs and spices to match the soup or salad you are going to serve them with. You can use semi-stale bread to make croutons so if you have some bread, which you were thinking of throwing away, you can use it to make a homemade croutons recipe instead.
Which Bread to Use
White bread is normally used for croutons but if you are making a nutritious and vegetable-rich soup, what about using wholegrain bread? You can also try sourdough bread, rye bread, baguette bread or another kind. Croutons can be very small or very big.
If you are serving a French onion soup recipe, you might want to cut diagonal slices of French bread and make huge croutons, since these are traditionally served with French onion soup. Smaller croutons are more common with other soup recipes and salads though.
Seasonings for Homemade Croutons
You can add all kinds of herbs, spices and other seasonings to homemade croutons to contrast with the soup or to match the flavors in it. For example, if you are making a gingered pumpkin soup recipe, you might like to add some ginger to your croutons to enhance the ginger flavor. You can use flavored oil to make croutons or roll them in grated Parmesan cheese. Use your imagination and you can make some really tasty croutons.
Recipe for Tomato Bisque with Basil Croutons
This tomato bisque recipe makes enough soup for six people and the basil croutons can be made up to three days in advance and then stored in a sealed plastic bag.
What you will need:
- 2 lbs tomatoes
- 1 quart milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 beef bouillon cubes
For the Basil Croutons:
- 4 slices white bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
How to make it:
Skin and de-seed the tomatoes and crumble the bouillon cubes. Shred the basil by hand. Put the tomatoes in a big pot and bring them to a simmer over a medium heat. Stir in the salt, sugar, bay leaf, pepper, and beef bouillon cubes. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer it for half an hour.
Meanwhile, make the croutons. Puree the oil and basil in a food processor or blender, then season to taste. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the bread cubes in the basil oil on a baking sheet, and then bake the croutons until they are crisp and golden brown. This should take about twelve minutes. Season them with salt and pepper if necessary.
Put the butter in a small pan and let it melt over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour for a minute or two. Whisk in one cup of milk at a time, letting the mixture simmer until it is thick. Spoon this mixture into the tomato mixture and stir until everything is well combined. Add the fresh basil and cook for one minute. Serve the soup immediately, garnished with the basil croutons.