I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this recipe I made up for croutons. I'm about as excited as when I made these crunchy gluten-free and egg-free baked coconut chicken nuggets!
For Christmas, a bunch of my friends got together for a potluck. The host @KenScheer gave me the challenge of making a stuffing that was gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and egg-free (basically vegan minus gluten and soy) because he and several of the guests had food allergies.
I was one of the guests with the dairy and egg allergies. I am also gluten-little and soy-little meaning last year I cut down my gluten and soy consumption by 80%. I eat gluten-free and soy-free as much as possible because I just feel better when I eat less of it.
I also love challenges, and my creative juices got going with this one. The big challenge with the stuffing was to make croutons. My bar is high so I wanted to make croutons that have the taste and texture almost identical to regular croutons. Making things even more complicated, most gluten-free breads are made with egg and can contain soy. Finding gluten-free, soy-free AND vegan breads is near impossible. Luckily for me, the key word is near not completely (impossible.)
I was able to taste test some of the gluten-free, soy-free, vegan breads made by Food For Life, and although the breads are tasty, they all had the texture of dense bricks - not working for me. Bread has to have some level of fluffy or soft to it. With croutons though, you get some texture leeway because croutons are recognized to be crunchy and heavier than say eating a slice of wheat toast.
I looked at making my own bread from scratch, but nixed that idea because mostly, I didn't have the patience to make a loaf of bread from scratch. I'm not a chef or baker. I'm an eater and my style of cooking is more assembly than from scratch.
So, I looked at pre-made bread mixes and found this Chebe brand Focaccia mix that was free of almost everything: gluten, soy, corn, rice, potato, yeast, tree nuts, iodine, sugar, dairy, peanut and GMOs. That focaccia sounded like allergen heaven! The mix called for egg but said you could use an egg-replacement. I made the focaccia using the Ener-G egg replacement.
As you can see, my focaccia looks pretty good on the outside although on the white side. I added some garlic, rosemary and sage on top. On the inside, however, it was a rubbery mess. My bread did not look as near fluffy as it did on the box. I was sad :( The outer crispy edge was tasty, so had this focaccia been made with egg, I have no doubt the bread would have been delicious.
When I got to Ken's house, I told him of my bread experiment disaster and so he figured that we were not going to have stuffing for Christmas dinner. I still had not given up so I asked him if I could go through his pantry and fridge and see if maybe he had any bread like foods I could work with. Ken remembered that he had these Brown Rice Food For Life English Muffins in his fridge. I took a bite and instantly got excited. Actually, I said "OMG! This just might work!"
Why? Because the English muffin had a lighter fluffy texture to them compared to the breads that Food For Life makes. More excitedly, the English muffin tasted and had the texture like a regular bread.
I made the croutons and then had a couple of the guests who didn't have food allergies try the croutons. They had no idea that the croutons had no gluten, egg, soy, or dairy. The croutons turned out crunchy just like regular croutons, and I love using the soy-free Earth Balance because it doesn't leave an after taste like the soy versions do.
We're talking major win my friends and now I share this crouton magic with you! You can use these croutons in any stuffing recipe of your choice. These croutons are amazing for salads, stuffing, and French Onion soup. Oh the delicious allergen-friendly foods we shall eat!
- 3 Brown Rice Food For Life English Muffins cut into crouton shaped squares
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary and sage (combined)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 3 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery spread - Soy-free version
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add in the garlic and saute in buttery spread for about a minute.
- Toss in the bread crumbs to coat with the buttery garlic.
- Sprinkle on the rosemary, sage, and sea salt.
- Toss a little more to ensure bread crumbs are well coated with the herbs, salt, butter, and garlic.
- Spread the croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and dry. Keep an eye on the croutons so they do not burn. I baked mine for 19 minutes.
Note: All photos taken with an iPhone 4