For croutes, the oven method is foolproof. Slice French bread into thin ovals (best for cream soups), and slice country, whole-grain, or rye bread into thicker slices or half slices (best for chunky, country-style soups). Spread each side of the bread with a very thin layer of fat. Place the slices in neat rows on a baking sheet and place in a 350 to 400 degrees F oven. In 5 minutes, check the bottom of a bread slice (the bottom will brown more quickly than the top because of its contact with the hot metal baking sheet). As soon as the bottoms are golden brown (5 to 8 minutes), take the baking sheet out of the oven. Turn all of the bread slices over and return them to the oven. This time the browning takes less time, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the croutes on a rack. Store the croutes in a sealed canister. They will keep for several weeks.