Second Installment of Thanksgiving Basics
Last year I started my Thanksgiving Basics series, sharing my tried and true techniques gathered from hosting and cooking Thanksgiving for almost 30 years a long time. I opened the series with my version of turkey stock. This year let’s make stuffing cubes. If you think those crunchy cubes only come from a bag or box from the market, I’m here to tell you they are so easy to make and once you give it a try, you’ll never go back to store-bought again.
Make Your Own Stuffing Cubes
We’ve been making the same stuffing for Thanksgiving for a long time. It’s the Cornbread Sausage Stuffing from The Silver Palate Cookbook. But over the years, I’ve changed the recipe a bit. One motivator of change was a recipe from Parade Magazine in 2001 that instructs you to make your own cornbread stuffing cubes. And not just by cutting the bread up and letting it dry out, but by seasoning and baking the cubes. Such an easy step but it yields well-seasoned crispy bread perfectly ready to accept more yummy flavors when you prepare the stuffing.
A Healthier Tastier Choice
If you read the package on many prepared, store-bought cubes you’ll find ingredients you just may not want to eat. If you make your own, you can choose what breads you use, how you want them to be seasoned, and how toasty you want them to be.
My basic method for DIY stuffing cubes is below but this is exactly that – a method. Use the bread that you want and change up the seasonings as befits your stuffing recipe.
Hope you enjoyed episode 2 of Thanksgiving Basics. Next up? The Stuffing of course!
- Bread cubes - one medium size (16 ounce) loaf of challah will yield about 10 cups of cubes, one 8X8 pan of cornbread will yield 9 - 12 cups of cubes and 6 slices of sourdough bread will yield about 4 cups of cubes. I share these measurements to give you an idea of how to decide how much bread you need based on how many cups of cubes your stuffing recipe lists. Many stuffing recipes will ask for around 10 cups of cubes but it really depends on how many people you are feeding.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil per sheet pan of cubes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme per sheet pan of cubes
- ½ teaspoon dried sage per sheet pan of cubes
- ½ teaspoon salt per sheet pan of cubes
- ½ teaspoon pepper per sheet pan of cubes
- NOTE: These are approximations and my choice of seasonings - don't be afraid to experiment and don't be concerned if you under season them or even over season a bit - you will still be combining the stuffing ingredients and you can add or subtract some seasoning if you aren't happy with the cubes' flavors (but you will be - I promise!)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees regular or 325 degrees convection.
- Slice your bread into approximately ½ inch cubes. Spread the cubes on cookie sheets, not too tightly packed. I usually fill up about 4 large sheet pans but it really depends how big a crowd you are feeding.
- Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each tray of cubes and sprinkle your dried herbs - thyme, sage, salt and pepper or whatever flavorings you have chosen. Mix the cubes all around to distribute the flavors. If your corn bread is really crumbly, be gentle and don't mix too much but I personally like some of those bread crumbs in my stuffing too.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, checking at about 10 minutes for doneness and to mix around. Cubes should be browned but not completely dark. They will firm up when you take them out.
- These can be made several days in advance and stored in a bag or container on the counter or in the pantry.