A Guide to the Perfect Crostini

Crostini make for an endless variety of near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Just spoon on your pick of toppings and watch them disappear.
By Jovina Coughlin

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Crostini is just another name for slices of bread that have been brushed with oil and baked until golden brown. They make for an endless variety of near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Just spoon on your pick of toppings and watch the crostini disappear.

Crostini is the Italian word for “little toasts”. They are believed to be a kind of Italian peasant food that originated in medieval times. The Italians, too poor to possess ceramic plates, preferred to eat their food by keeping it on the surface of slices of bread. The Italians, not a group to waste anything, often ate stale bread which had to be soaked in juices or wine in order to chew it properly.

Bruschetta and crostini are both bread preparations used in antipasti – but what is the difference?

The difference between bruschettas and crostini is the type of bread used. Bruschetta, from the Italian word “bruscare” meaning “to roast over coals”, is made by toasting whole, wide slices of a rustic Italian or sourdough type bread. Crostini are sliced from a smaller, round, finer-textured bread, more like a white bread baguette. In Italy you might find yourself offered an antipasto of four or five different crostini, no more than a couple of mouthfuls each, accompanied by some olives, but only one or two of the larger bruschetta would be plenty.

Start With Good Bread
The bread you use should be high quality; look for fresh baguettes, boules and hearty country bread, preferably from a local bakery (as opposed to supermarket brands). Texture is very important–it shouldn’t be too dense.

Thickness of Slices

The bread needs to be thin enough to bite, but thick enough to support toppings -1/2-inch thick is just right.

Oil

Brush olive oil on each piece before toasting it. Why? It makes the surface of the bread less dry. And it just tastes better.

Don’t Over-Toast

If the crostini are too hard, they will hurt your guests’ mouths and flake all over their clothes. The ideal texture: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. To achieve it, bake, grill or broil bread over high heat, making sure to toast both sides. (If you cook on too low a heat, the bread will dehydrate and crumble upon first bite.) You’ll know it’s finished when the edges are browned but the center is lighter in color and still has a little spring to it.

Flavoring

Flavor your crostini right after toasting. Things you can rub on the bread: a raw garlic clove, a tomato half – cut side-down or a whole lemon or orange–rind. The crispy bread will pick up the fruit’s essential oils.

Toppings

If you pile on the topping, it’s going to fall off when you bite into the crostini. You should be able to take bites without worrying about staining your shirt or dress. Wet topping = soggy bread. Use a slotted spoon when working with a wet topping (tomatoes, etc.) so that extra liquid is left behind. If using greens, dress them lightly.

Here are some of my favorite combinations. They are easy to prepare and are always a big hit when I entertain.
Shrimp and Pesto
Mediterranean Spread with Artichokes
Caprese
Olive and Orange Spread
Roasted Red Pepper and Prosciutto
Caramelized Sweet Onions and Gorgonzola
Lemon Ricotta with Fruit and Honey


Jovina Coughlin

I was born in New Jersey to first generation Italian parents. Both sets of my grandparents were born in Italy and emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. They brought with them a love of the Italian culture and cooking. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. I learned many of my cooking skills from my parents and grandparents, but I also studied Italian cooking and made many of the recipes for my children as they were growing up. I am married with three children and six grandchildren. Besides New Jersey, I have lived in Pennsylvania, Michigan and now on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Masters of Science Degree and I have taught high school English and special education. I have also been an administrator in the public schools at the district and county levels. Now that I am retired from the teaching profession, I have the time to write a blog and share my information about Italian American cooking and culture. Because I am a teacher by trade, I feel that I have the skills to share with readers the techniques for preparing authentic and healthy meals.

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