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~ RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad ~

IMG_6403One could call me obsessed, or perhaps off-my-rocker, for baking a loaf of bread for the sole purpose of making Buffalo-seasoned bread or Buffalo-seasoned croutons for a deli-sandwich or a chef's-type Buffalo-style chicken salad.  That said, in my own defense, when the bread machine does all the work for me, why wouldn't I go the extra mile to make a great sandwich or salad even greater.  Trust me, "my cheese has not slid of my cracker".  There's just something so very special about appropriately-seasoned homemade bread or croutons used in an ingredient-specific sandwich or on an ingredient-specific salad that speaks volumes about the cook.

IMG_6390A bit about croutons in general: "Crouton" is our English word for any small piece of plain or seasoned, sliced or cubed, toasted or fried bread used to accompany or garnish soups, salads and other dishes.  It is derived from the French word "crouton" (kroo-tawn) which the French define as a small piece of bread or snack bread that is usually served with drinks.  "Croute" (kroot) is the French word for crust and "en croute" refers to food wrapped in or topped with a pastry crust then baked. Croutons are super-easy to make, plus they are the perfect use for almost any leftover bread (the exception being soft, cottony, white, sandwich-type bread).  My quick skillet method for preparing them produces a crispy, butter-flavored crouton on the outside with a slightly softer "chewy/al dente" center.  This differs from the lengthier oven method for preparing croutons (a low temperature for a longer period of time), which produces a crispy crouton throughout. 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e0e80e200dA bit about bread-machine bread in general.  Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.  What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the machine-kneading) has been inserted into it. When making bread in a bread machine, the protocol for adding ingredients to the bread pan is: wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second (on top of wet ingredients), granulated yeast last.

IMG_63261 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend

2  tablespoons Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend

1  packet granulated dry yeast

IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329 IMG_6329~Step 1.  To make the Buffalo-seasoned bread-machine bread loaf, in the following order, in the pan of the breach machine, place the warm water and olive oil.  Add the flour, salt and sugar, followed by the RedHot Ranch seasoning and RedHot original seasoning.  Do not stir.  Using your index finger, make a small, semi-shallow indentation on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep as to reach the liquid below.  Add the yeast to the indentation.

IMG_6341 IMG_6341 IMG_6351 IMG_6351~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Plug the machine in, select the "white bread" cycle, followed by se the "light crust" option.  Push start.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.  When  machine signals bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn bread pan at a 30-45º angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn loaf upright and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  In approximately three hours, you will have a two-pound loaf of somewhat spicy Buffalo-seasoned bread.

IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6359 IMG_6370 IMG_6370~Step 3.  To prepare the croutons, using a serrated bread knife, cut 1-pound of the bread (half of the bread loaf) into 3/4"-1" cubes. In a 12" skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 2 sticks salted butter over low heat. Stir 2 teaspoons each of Frank's RedHot Ranch seasoning blend and Franks's RedHot original seasoning blend into the melted butter.

IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376 IMG_6376~Step 4.  Add all of the bread cubes to the pan.  Increase heat to medium.  Using two large nonstick spoons, gently stir and toss the bread cubes constantly, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  No melted butter will remain in the bottom of the pan, just a golden brown residue. Remove from heat and allow croutons to cool slightly in the pan, 10-15 minutes, to allow carryover heat to continue to crisp them.  Line a baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels, transfer croutons to pan and spread them in a single layer.  Set aside to cool completely. 

Store, uncovered, 1-2 days, while using in salads or soups:  

IMG_6394RedHot-Ranch Croutons for Buffalo Chicken Salad: Recipe yields 6 cups of cubed croutons.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; bread machine; serrated bread knife; 12" nonstick skillet; 2 large nonstick spoons

6a0120a8551282970b026bde967366200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as wings. ~ How Many Ways Can One Say Buffalo Wing Style ~?

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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