If you're anything like me, the worst thing in the world is being stuck with day-old bread (I think I've mentioned that before—there is literally no greater problem). But hark! I know what you're going to do with that seemingly-useless garbage: make homemade croutons.
Why make homemade croutons? Because they're probably better than what you can buy at the store. Or, if not, because you want to use up that bread before it goes from stale to moldy. Here's what you'll need:
—Stale bread (anything should work, as long as it is stale or is capable of going stale)—Enough to fill your lipped baking pan when cubed up
Stop interrupting. And probably not—commercial breads don't go stale, because they've got a bunch of stuff in them to keep them from going stale. That's why you can eat Wonder Bread up until the point that it sprouts mold, and it will taste and feel exactly as it did when you brought it home from the store. For this kind of thing, you want bread with an ingredient list that looks as close to this as possible: flour, salt, yeast, water. Eggs (as in challah) or butter (as in brioche) are probably okay, but nothing you can't pronounce. (I heard an interview with a food activist a while back, and he had a great line: If you can't say that shit, don't eat that shit.)
—Half a cup of olive oil
—A couple tablespoons of melted butter
—Some salt (I dunno, I just put in as much as I thought was useful)
—Flavorings (1/3 a cup of parmesan, a teaspoon of dried Italian herb mix, etc.—-go with what you like)
Heat your oven to 300-325. Take your pan and line it with foil—ideally, a big enough piece to cover the bottom, sides, and the lip, which will make for easy clean-up later. Then, start cubing your bread—rather than having a set amount (7/8 of a loaf!), cube some up, put it in the pan, cube some more, put it in the pan etc., until you've got enough to cover the thing with a single layer.
Take a big bowl and add your oil, butter, and flavorings, and whisk them up. Then throw in the bread, toss to coat very well—by the end, every cube should be coated, and there should be little to no oil left in the bowl. Pour the whole thing back into the pan, make sure everything is one layer, and pop it in the oven.
How long will it take? The website where I got this recipe said 20 minutes at 300, but that's a filthy lie. After about 20 minutes, take it out, give everything a stir, and note that you're nowhere close to being done. Pop it back in and then start checking after another 20 minutes or so—if you pop one in your mouth (after holding it on the spoon for a few seconds—don't be a hero) and you feel a bit of crunch, but it's still soft, let it go—these things will get slightly crispier as they cool and dry, but not all that much; you want them crispy throughout before you pull the pan, and depending on the size of the cubes and how fresh/stale the bread is, I've baked them for anywhere from 40-65 minutes before they were done. Once they are done, pull the pan, let it cool completely, and then pop them into a plastic tub or something.
That's a lot of oil. Aren't they going to be saturated with olive oil?
But, wait, won't—
I said, "And how."
Okay, how long will they last?
A pan full of croutons is a lot. Considering how tasty they are, I'd say they last long enough to make three salads before you run out of them from out-of-hand eating.
That's not what I was asking. Won't they go bad after a while?
I dunno, probably.