These croutons add a bright pop of texture and flavor to any soup or salad or are just as tasty as a nibble to serve with drinks before dinner. I can't keep them around whenever I make them, as they are greedily pilfered by eager fingers from their container in the pantry. Use a rustic bread for these -- like an Italian country loaf, at least a day or two old. Bigger holes in the bread mean more nooks to trap and hold the savory seedy mixture. If you use the lesser amount of cayenne pepper (1/8 teaspoon) in the recipe, the croutons will be savory with a tinge of warmth, and if you use the larger amount (1/4 teaspoon) they will have a nice spicy zing in your mouth. It all depends on your personal taste. Also, if you can't find black sesame seeds, substitute them with an extra tablespoon of white sesame seeds or poppy seeds. —Kitchen Frau
Test Kitchen Notes
As soon as I saw this recipe, I thought "Genius!" And, to my tastebuds, they were. The recipe is written very clearly -- I followed it to a T, and ended up with crispy, extremely flavorful nuggets. I wanted to eat them straight for dinner, but put them on a spinach salad with avocado and hard boiled egg instead. However I will note that for some reason, my husband wasn't a fan. He thought they were too strong, and that there was too much cumin in them. I think he's crazy. —fearlessem
stale bread cubes (1/2 to 3/4 inch dice)
large egg white
mustard seeds, yellow or brown
hulled white sesame seeds
black sesame seeds
flaked sea salt, or 1/4 teaspoon regular sea salt
In a large bowl, beat the egg white with a large whisk until soft peaks form (or use an electric mixer). Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and whisk until it is incorporated. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and whisk again until you have a soft, fluffy almost-mayonnaise-like mixture.
Cut the bread with a serrated knife into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes, and fold the cubes gently into the whipped egg and oil mixture with a rubber spatula until they are completely coated.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Coarsely grind the cumin seeds and mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. (This is where you get to bring out that seldom used mortar and pestle and look really professional.) You don't want a fine powder, just a crushed texture to release the oils and flavors.
In a small bowl, combine the crushed seeds with the remaining seeds and seasonings. Sprinkle this over the coated bread cubes and toss again gently until the seed mixture has coated the bread.
Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the croutons are starting to turn a toasty golden color at the edges and are crisp on the outside, though depending on how dry your bread was to start out with, some may still be a little chewy on the inside, and that is lovely, too.
Let cool completely in the pan, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for several months to bring out whenever you want a bright crunchy pop of flavor on soups or salads.
Or, serve them as nibbles anytime!