Over the last several years I've been perfecting my crouton technique. I'm a great lover of excellent croutons and here's what I've discovered (I'd love your tricks/input as well):
Must be made with fresh bread: I know every recipe says day old bread but I've found that fresh bread makes a better crouton. The taste is more there...not muted by staleness.
Fresh challah makes a fantastic crouton: So far the winner of all the breads I've tried is challah from the jewish bakery around the corner (french, italian, wheat, brioche, sourdough). There is something about the taste and texture of challah that makes a mind-blowing crouton.
I like the crust left on and the croutons hand-torn: I really prefer the rustic look of hand-torn croutons and I much prefer the difference of textures and tastes when the crust is left in tact - especially with the challah.
Drench those babies in olive oil: this was my real 'ah-ha' moment. I doused my challah in olive oil, tossed it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and baked at 300 until the croutons are firm and crunchy but not overbrowned. I like them so they just soak up the dressing but don't get mushy. Usually takes about 10-20 minutes. Less olive oil did not make for a superior crouton....more olive was bliss. More than you think is necessary, for sure.
Always toss the croutons in the dressing first THEN add everything else: this is the final step and vital to a good salad with perfect croutons. Just enough dressing soaking into those still crunchy, yet tender croutons....heaven!!
Any tricks or tips you use?