Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Hump-Day Quickie: Summer Coutons: or A Free Oven Stands in the Driveway

Maybe this is unusual, but I like eating croutons like some people enjoy potato chips. When I was younger, the practice of wasting perfectly good croutons on top of a salad confounded me. Which brings us to today's recipe:

Summer Croutons
Stale or otherwise unwanted bread
Seasonings and salt to taste
Cooking spray

Cut the bread into pieces a bit bigger than you want (they will crumble a bit and thus shrink as you get them coated in spices). Lightly spritz them with cooking spray, then toss to distribute the oil a bit more. Shake seasonings over the bread and toss again. Taste a bread piece and add more seasoning if desired.
Place them in a non-reflective baking dish (you can just pile them into a ceramic dinner bowl), and put it on the dashboard of a car in the morning. Leave them in the car all day.
Or, put them in a pan big enough to hold them in a single layer. Bake at 350° until toasted, stirring every few minutes for even browning.

We had the heels of this lovely rye bread, which remained uneaten long after the rest of the loaf was gone.

There's no need to get complicated with the seasonings- especially with a flavorful bread like rye. I just did salt, pepper, and paprika.

I did not wish to run the oven just to toast some cut-up bread scraps, but then I remembered that it has been so hot even people's yard cacti are drooping. Which brings us to how I baked these:

Obviously, many people before us have made use of the inadvertent solar cooker parked outside their domiciles. There are also a lot of people who cook on the engine itself during long drives. (A quick hat doff to Lace Maker for reminding me that Manifold Destiny exists!) I just thought it was silly to run a hot oven just to toast some cut-up bread heels. Furthermore, the car was going to get hot whether I put food on the dashboard or not.

Using the car as an oven ended up working really well. The croutons were crisp without getting hardened like they would in the oven. When I brought these lovely rye croutons in the house, no one else was impressed with them. The general response was to look at the pan, and then back at me with the unspoken question "Is this what we're having for dinner?" 

Granted, I don't think one can make a pan of brown bread cubes appealing without a lot of presentation effort and a hard sales pitch. Since I did neither, no one else wanted to eat the croutons that I had spent literally the entire hot day making. It's their loss.

I was originally going to say that if the thermometer has already reached one hundred degrees (that's 38° for our Celsius friends*), your car is a wonderful way to turn bread into croutons-- or to make bread easy to crumble up if your recipe calls for a lot of breadcrumbs. However, when I got into the car two days later, the smell of herbs and seasonings thwacked me in the nose as the superheated air flew out the driver's side door. 

So if you're going to make croutons or any other highly-seasoned food in your car, you will have to leave the windows down all night to air out the smell. Obviously, most of us cannot realistically do that. So, any future "the sun is my oven" undertakings will not involve my dashboard. You just know that after a few repeated baking attempts, the smell would embed itself in the upholstery no matter how much one tried to air the car out.



*Yes, I know that technically 100°F is 37.7°C, not 38°C. But by the time it gets that hot outside, even the most pedantic of people will not care about a less-than-one-degree difference.


  1. That is brilliant, and I don't think I'd mind a car that smelt like that*!

    * Subject to change upon actually experiencing it.

    1. It made me think of when a friend of mine delivered pizzas for a while. Whenever we got in his car, it smelled like pizza. Long after he moved on to other jobs, his car still smelled like pizza.

  2. I've never actually tried baking anything in my car before, although I certainly joke about it. I tend to buy cars with dark paint because it helps the tire boogers melt off in the winter, but they do get darn hot in the summer. As for the temperature thing, I worked in the admission transfer center of a hospital for the first year and a half of COVID (I'm in a way better department now), and we always asked if a patient had a fever of 100 F or 37.8 C or higher.

    1. They do get hot in the summer! I had a black vehicle until it finally died at the ripe age of 195,000 miles, and in the summer we had to open the doors and stand back for thirty seconds before getting in.
      Is a 100F fever a quick sign of whether someone has severe COVID? I have to admit I'm still a little scared to even read about how the disease works (I got all the shots though- they got Omicron boosters in my town two weeks ago and I rushed right in.)

    2. Fever doesn't indicate severe COVID, it's just a symptom along with cough, sore throat, unexplained body aches or chills. Severe COVID involves low oxygen saturations.

  3. Ha! This one cracked me up. You're not along in snacking on croutons, either. My significant other likes to eat them straight.

    1. Your SO likes them too? I think they're so much better out of the box than any other way.