day-old firm, white bread
Cut the bread into about 1 cm thick slices. Remove the crusts and cut the slices into cubes.
Let the butter melt in a large skillet over moderate heat. You may replace half of the butter with some high-quality olive oil.
When the butter starts to foam, add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter. Continue to fry them until they are crisp and nicely browned, shaking the pan frequently.
You may also first toast the bread slices lightly, then cut them into cubes and toss around in a little butter in a hot skillet.
Sprinkle croûtons on soups and mix them in salads, like the classic Caesar salad.
Try also making croûtons using various whole wheat breads or dark rye breads.
Croûtons baked in oven:
Here is another method for preparing croûtons, adapted from the chef Michael Chiarello's recipes:
After you have tossed the bread cubes in the butter without letting them brown, pour them on
a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 175 °C for about 15 minutes, or until the cubes are crisp and slightly browned. Stir the cubes once or twice during baking.
To make flavoured croûtons, toss the bread cubes in melted compound butter, flavoured with garlic, thyme, anchovies, flat-leaf parsley, etc.
In addition, you may toss the bread cubes with finely grated Parmesan cheese before baking them.
Recipe source: traditional recipe / "Panzanella croutons", WNED-TV/Michael Chiarello's Napa Casual Cooking, 2002.