Last week I had the opportunity to visit Olivia’s Croutons’ gluten free facility in Middlebury. Before I adopted a gluten free diet, I often bought Olivia’s Croutons (the non-gf version), which are made in a renovated barn in New Haven. It was always such a treat to add a few flavorful croutons to a homemade salad. I have made gluten free croutons a few times in the past few months, and they have always turned out well. However, gf bread is precious and expensive; the idea of cutting some up for croutons can seem frivolous when it could be used for toast or sandwiches. With very few commercially made gluten free croutons on the market, it is nice to have a really high quality kind available.
So many people asked them to make a gf version that they took steps to find a new facility that could be completely gf. (Proof that we need to pressure companies to make truly safe gluten free versions of the products we used to love.) They had to purchase several pieces of large manufacturing equipment and develop a decent gf bread recipe that could be used to make the croutons.
On the day that I visited, they were baking the bread. Using an industrial mixer, they mix the bread dough which includes a variety of gluten free flours including some higher protein flours like millet and sorghum. It was nice to know that they tried to keep the lighter starches at a minimum.
While I was there, they put the bread in the oven–it was fun to see it the dough rise up like a soufflé within the first five minutes of baking. The oven is huge and has a steam function that is on for the first few minutes of baking.
After baking, the bread “stales” overnight. The next day, they use a machine to cut the bread into cubes for croutons. Then, they toss the bread cubes in an oil slurry (or butter, herb, garlic mixture–depending on the crouton flavor), before bagging the croutons and putting the bags into boxes.
They gave me a loaf of bread to take home and try out. It was very good–especially toasted.
The great thing about croutons is that you can do so much with them. They can be put on salad, of course. But also consider grinding a few in a food processor (or put them in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin) to coat chicken or fish before baking. The garlic croutons would be great ground up and put into meatballs.
They make the croutons in the same facility as YOLO popcorn, which I got to sample. I had the chipotle flavor and herb flavor. Both were delicious. It was wonderful to witness so much gluten free food production so close to home.
Note: Olivia’s also makes gf stuffing/dressing mix using the same bread.