Ari’s Pick: Salt and Pepper Croutons

Homemade croutons to liven up your life!

Ever find yourself wondering what to do with good Bakehouse bread that might be slightly past its prime? Homemade croutons have long been one of my favorite ways to turn what might have gone to waste into something truly wonderful. They aren’t hard to make, and they’re marvelous to eat!

croutons in a cast-iron panIf you start these with any of the Bakehouse breads, you’re certain to end up with a very tasty crouton! The crouton-making generally works better with older bread, but I’ve made the croutons successfully with fresh bread as well—you can let slices air dry for half an hour before you cube them up.

How to make them

Start the cooking by heating a generous amount of extra virgin oil in a skillet—more than a thin coating, but not so much that you’re deep frying. Drop in a peeled clove of lightly bruised fresh garlic. Cook gently for a few minutes at very modest heat, stirring occasionally so the garlic doesn’t brown. Take the garlic out and then turn up the heat a bit to something resembling medium. Drop a cube of bread in the oil to test the heat—the oil is ready when you get small bubbles coming up around the bread. Add the rest of the bread cubes. You don’t want to pack the pan so full that you can’t move the bread around. If you’re doing a big batch, you can split the cooking into two, so you don’t overcrowd. Stir steadily every minute or two so the cubes brown evenly. Be careful not to leave them alone—they can quickly burn.

croutons in a white bowl on a marble tableAs soon as the bread cubes are nicely toasted, move them with a slotted spoon into a mixing bowl. Immediately add a good bit of crushed sea salt. I like the Portuguese one for this because it’s finely ground (more on this salt soon) and subtly sweet. Add a good dose of freshly ground, really great black pepper. We have the Épices de Cru Tellicherry #10 at our house along with the 5 Star Pepper Blend (Tellicherry Reserve, Mlamala, Rajakumari, Tellicherry EB, and Shimoga peppercorns). Really, any of the peppercorns we stock at the Deli would be wonderful. The key is to season the cooked bread cubes while they’re still hot so that the salt and pepper stick well.

Change them up

You can certainly use other spices as well. I’m big on cumin and fennel. The Épices de Cru folks provide us with a wealth of wonderful curry blends—Trinidad Curry is one of my favorites. Finely ground chiles can be fun too.

I’m particularly partial to using the Roadhouse Bread for croutons. Something about the blend of rye and wheat (milled here at the Bakehouse) and corn, along with the subtle sweetness of the molasses is lovably enhanced by the browning and spiced by the salt and pepper. I end up eating half of them out of the bowl with my fingers like potato chips long before we put salad on the table. You can follow this same recipe with Cinnamon Raisin bread from the Bakehouse as well—the sweet-savory makes a nice touch on salads.

P.S. To make really great bread crumbs, just crush the croutons on a plastic bag or grind with a hand grater.

Hungry for More?

  • Sign up for Ari’s Top 5 enewsletter to hear more from Ari every week!
  • Order a loaf of Roadhouse online for local pick up (or give us a call to reserve a loaf)
  • Ship a loaf to someone you love (don’t forget to share this blog post with them, so they can make croutons, too!)
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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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