In Italian, the word crostini means “little toasts,” which is an accurate description of this food. Crostini are made by thinly slicing bread, typically plain white bread, and toasting or grilling it so that it becomes crispy. The slices can be drizzled with olive oil and salt and then served plain, or they can be dressed with an assortment of toppings and used as appetizers or garnishes with foods such as soups. Crostini are very easy to make at home, or they can be purchased at many grocery stores and import stores.
There are many uses for this toasted bread. Some bars put out plain crostini as bar snacks, because the salt and oil encourage people to drink more, and the bread assists with digestion. They are also often used for the bases of appetizers, as in the case of crostini grilled with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, for example. Sometimes, this food is served as a side dish with foods such as steak tartare.
These small pieces of toast also can be floated on soups. They are sometimes toasted with various cheeses when this is done. Crostini also can be used like croutons.
To make this food, many cooks use custom-made loaves that will provide the the desired size of slices. Any type of Italian bread, such as ciabatta, also can be used. As a general rule, each individual crostini is designed to be held easily in the hand and might be bite-size as well. The bread is sliced very thinly, and the slices are grilled or toasted in an oven before being brushed with olive oil.
Once prepared, this food can be stored in an airtight container until it is needed. The slices can be served plain and warm, or they can be baked again with toppings and served hot or cold as appetizers. Cold crostini also can be topped with cheese, páté or another topping, creating an appetizer similar to a canapé.
These slices are thin and toasted, so they tend to be very hard. When they are used like croutons in soup, the soup tends to soften them, but they retain a bready texture even with soaking and will not dissolve entirely into the soap. Other sauces and dressing might soften the slices slightly, making them easier to eat. The slices hold their consistency well, so they make a good base for appetizers that are being made ahead of time, because they usually will not become soggy. If the slices are going to be served warm, the ingredients can be assembled beforehand so that the slices are ready to slide into an oven at the last minute.