1(approximately 1-pound) loaf French OR Italian breadfresh or somewhat stale
⅓cupextra-virgin olive oil
¾teaspoonsaltplus additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepperto taste
¼cupfreshly grated Parmesanoptional
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the bread into ¾-inch cubes, to yield about 10 cups.
In a bowl, combine the melted butter, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. Place the bread cubes in a very large (2-gallon) zip-top plastic bag or a very large bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Drizzle the bread cubes with the butter/oil/herb mixture, seal the bag (or cover the bowl), and shake and turn until the cubes are evenly coated and seasoned.
Pour the seasoned bread cubes onto a rimmed 18x13x1-inch half sheet pan and spread into a single layer (initially, the bread cubes will be tightly packed, but as they bake, they will shrink and there will be more space for them to spread out on the sheet pan). Season bread cubes with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Bake the croutons for 8 minutes. Flip and stir the croutons with a metal spatula, spreading them back into a single layer. If desired, the croutons may be sprinkled with Parmesan at this point. Return the croutons to the oven and bake for 5 to 15 minutes or longer, watching carefully and stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the croutons are light golden brown (or as dark as you prefer them).
Carefully taste a crouton (blow on it first, as it will be hot!) and season the pan with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Allow croutons to completely cool and then store them in an airtight container for up to a week.
If desired, you may slice the crust off of the bread before cutting your bread cubes.
Crumbling the dried herbs in your fingers will grind them into a finer powder for more even distribution on the croutons.
Feel free to change up the herbs.
If using minced fresh herbs, do not add them to the butter/oil/garlic powder mixture. Instead, sprinkle them over the croutons after the first 8 minutes of baking time (along with the Parmesan cheese, if using).
If all of your croutons won't fit on one rimmed baking pan, you may divide the croutons between two pans. I'd recommend baking the pans one at a time...just keep in mind that if the croutons are more spread out with extra room on a baking pan, they will probably brown more quickly...so be sure to watch them closely.