Crostini is type of crunchy Italian treat made of toasted bread lightly coated with olive oil and garlic. Easy to prepare in under fifteen minutes, crostini can be a last minute addition to any meal. A batch of delicately spiced crostini can make a soup or salad into an easy full meal for a busy weeknight. Or smother it in a topping of fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, and tangy oil-cured olives and serve it as a sophisticated starting course before an Italian dish like pizza or pasta. Kids love the crunch and adults love the subtle bite of garlic, so you’ll find plenty of reasons to make crostini a regular part of your kitchen repertoire.
Choosing A Bread
The basis of crostini is the bread. For traditional crostini, you should choose a white bread, but gourmets have started to push the boundaries of what breads to use. For a contemporary twist, try using hearty whole wheat, or a tangy sourdough. If you want your crostini in the classic small rounds, opt for a baguette style loaf that is long and thin like a piece of rope. Of course, you can always experiment with different shapes of bread; for example, a large country style batard will give you huge crostini that can serve as the basis for sandwiches. Whatever type of bread you pick, remember that the crustier the loaf is, the better the texture of your crostini will be. For a truly unforgettable crostini, try baking the bread yourself and adding a little something extra, like pureed roasted garlic or caramelized onions, to the dough.
Cut the baguette into slices along a slight diagonal angle so that you get more surface area per slice. If you want a crostini that is all crunch and can stand firmly up to a soup, make your slices about a quarter of an inch thick. This will give you crostini that is similar to an oversized crouton, light, airy, and very crispy. If you want a bit more heft and chewiness, perhaps to balance out a topping of fresh vegetables, slice a bit thicker, aiming for a third of an inch or so. As you’ll see when you get to know crostini, even these minor changes in diameter make a big difference. This is one of the reasons why making crostini is such a useful skill to have; because you can vary the dish’s character and use with the slightest alteration, you’ll be able to make a wide range of crostini styles almost immediately!
Now for the fun part; flavoring your crostini. For a traditional crostini, start by slicing a clove of garlic in half. Lay your bread slices on a baking sheet; it’s fine if their edges touch, so long as the slices aren’t overlapping. Now, rub the garlic across the surface of each slice of bread to give a gently spicy note to your crostini. Brush the slices with a thin layer of extra virgin oil, sprinkle gently with salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven. Of course, you can also try new flavor combinations that will make your crostini stand out. Here are a few ideas to get you started; a sprinkle of paprika, a dash of oregano, a drizzle of truffle oil, or even a gentle dusting of fiery red pepper flakes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of crostini, you can really let your creativity shine by coming up with fun new twists on this classic foodstuff.
Start with an oven that is preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s best to start your oven going at least twenty minutes before you want to bake your crostini. That way, you can be sure that the temperature is consistent throughout the oven, which makes for evenly toasted, delicately browned crostini. Once your oven is hot, pop in your baking sheet with the flavored bread slices on it. Let bake for four minutes, then open the oven and rotate the sheet 180 degrees. Turning the tray makes sure that the slices get completely even heat on all sides, so that your crostini is thoroughly cooked without burning. Now, let your crostini bake until it is brown around the edges, with a hint of golden brown in the middle of each slice. This should take between four and six more minutes. Then, just take your crostini out of the oven, let it cool to room temperature or just slightly above, serve, and enjoy!