Soup And Salad Croutons

Someone posted a recipe for croutons a while back, I think they were for Outback. The recipe looked pretty good, but it was a bulk restaurant recipe, so I decided to reduce the size and play around with it a bit. They are actually pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. These go great with a variety of soups, and any salad you’d put croutons in. If you’ve never had fresh croutons, or made them from scratch yourself, you need to try these. You’ll never buy that garbage in the box again.

9 slices white bread (the square slices, I used Sunbeam)
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp Hidden Valley Ranch powdered mix
1/2 tsp powdered cheese sauce mix (you can buy this and the Ranch powder in bulk from Sam’s Club, but if you don’t have a Sam’s near you or aren’t a member, just steal the mix out of a box of mac & cheese)
1 tsp Emeril’s essence (I use my own mix, but it is similar to his Southwest Essence)
3 1/2 tsp minced garlic

Place the butter in a microwaveable dish and heat it on the “warm” setting for about 60 seconds. (On my microwave, the “warm” setting is lower than the “defrost” setting). You want the butter to get soft, but not to melt. Alternatively, leave it out at room temperature for an hour or two. When it is soft like the consistency of mayonnaise, add the spices and minced garlic, and stir to incorporate.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread. (For you thrifty people out there, you can leave the crusts out on a plate overnight and then pulse them in a food processor with a few spices the next day for some homemade breadcrumbs.) Slice each piece of bread into 3 equal strips, and then slice those strips in half, for a total of 6 croutons per slice, or 54 total. Place them on a baking sheet (they’ll all fit nicely on 1 if you line them up right) and toast until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Now take each crouton, and roll it/pat it in the butter mixture, getting some on each side. You want a fair amount on them, but not too much (the butter mixture makes exactly enough to cover all of the croutons, so if you start running low halfway through, you’re putting on too much). If you have disposable foodservice golves I suggest you use them, as the butter will start to melt when in prolonged contact with your skin and body temperature (not to mention it’s messy). If you don’t have them, you can use a couple of plastic sandwich bags. Place them back on the baking sheet and toast for another 10 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cool, store them in a tupperware container. It’s a little bit of work, but I’m sure you and your family will be happy with the results. Enjoy!