These homemade croutons are completely addictive. I named them Elle's croutons because I first made them up when Elle was over for a playdate with the girls (they've designed a model of their dream Parisien apartment and are currently building it together). It was lunchtime, we were having soup and were out of crackers, so I improvised and made croutons. Normally I would have combined olive oil and butter, but I made these without due to Elle's dairy allergy. I love it when a restriction becomes an improvement! My family (and Elle) can eat these in huge quantities, snacking on them like potato chips. 
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Crusty bread sliced into half to one inch squares.
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Heat about 2T olive oil in a pan and sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Toss repeatedly and drizzle more oil and more salt to taste.
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The more browned the better, and don't skimp on the salt! But be sure it's kosher salt* (see note below) which is milder than table salt and offers a much larger margin of error so you don't have to worry as much about over-salting.
*Special Note about Kosher Salt
When I started using Kosher salt a few years ago, I luckily picked up the Diamond Crystal brand which recently I've learned is the preferred salt in many a professional kitchen. It has a course texture and is much less salty per volume than table salt, and even compared to different brands of kosher salt. Diamond Crystal has a patented method of stacking salt crystals, instead of flattening, which creates a grain size that, although larger, is less compressed and so not as strong flavored. 

Therefore, you can't use equal amounts of table salt when a recipe calls for kosher or koshering salt, and you can't use equal amounts from different brands. Deb from Smitten Kitchen has a great article about salt where she sites Jill Santopietro's article and conversion between different brands and types. I've listed the conversion below for convenience, but you really should read both articles! Ultimately, you can be a lot more liberal when sprinkling with Diamond Crystal without worrying about over-salting.

As for baking, my friend and food professional, Peter Degnan, uses kosher salt for savory and Morton's table salt for baking. This has worked well for me. Thanks, Peter!
Salt Conversion from Jill Santopietro's Research:

1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt = roughly 1  1/4 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt = roughly   1  3/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Now, back to the croutons. 

They're best with a quality sweet batard (like Acme's Italian batard or Semifreddi's sweet batard), loads of olive oil and generous sprinkles of kosher salt. It's a great way to use up old bread (extra olive oil is required), but the flavors soak in better with a fresh loaf. 

Equipment
serrated knife & cutting board
Large frying pan

Ingredients
half loaf of crusty bread (we like sweet batards but sourdough would be delicious, too)
1/4 C olive oil, approx.
1/2 to 1 tsp kosher salt, approx. (table salt or iodized salt is too harsh. Course sea salt would work fine)

Procedure
1. Slice bread into 1/2"-1" rough squares. 
2. Pre-heat pan on medium-high heat.
3. Drizzle olive oil across pan to coat (approx 2T) and heat well.
4. Add half of the bread. A single layer is best for better browning.
5. Sprinkle with kosher salt (about 1/4 tsp).
6. While one side is browning, drizzle more olive oil on top of bread (about 1T).
7. Toss to brown other side, sprinkle more salt (about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp).
8. Keep adding more olive oil and salt to taste until well-browned.

Be sure to heat the olive oil in the pan before adding the bread for better browning. I let them brown on one side and then toss while in the pan, adding more olive oil and salt as I go. I'm not sure how chefs codify a recipe. It's so hard to measure exactly how much salt I'm using when I'm sprinkling. So I encourage sprinkling and tasting, rather than getting out your measuring spoons! You can always sprinkle more table side if you find they aren't savory enough.

The saturated pieces taste the best -- first you crunch through the browned exterior, then a satisfying little gush of olive oil. Don't be shy with either ingredient, and be sure not to overcrowd the bread in the pan. I usually make these in two batches, or else there are never enough! Even with two batches, we always want more. Enjoy!
 





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