Short answer: about ¼inch/1cm thickness and maybe some garlic
Longer answer: both are heated slices of sliced thinish bread – ciabatta for example or a baguette (to mix nationalities), drizzled with a little olive oil. Crostini is the Italian for ‘little toasts’; a bruschetta is a noun derived from the verb bruscare (also Italian) meaning ‘to roast over coals’ – bruschette are usually rubbed with garlic first. They can be made from bread with a bigger diameter than a baguette, or from a baguette (approximately 50 vertical slices). Crostini on the other hand, again to mix nationalities, are best made with a ficelle (about 40 vertical slices).
Of course, just to confuse things further, if you are in Venice the tapas are called cicchetti. A good place to try out some on bread… crostini effectively…. is La Cantina, a bàcaro which specialises in all kinds of interesting toppings – for example – porcini, melted Asagio cheese and slivered almonds; or eel, zucchini flowers and basil; or veal kidneys (the best). La Cantina is at Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice, Venice – follow this link for The Guardian‘s review – it doesn’t have a website.
It’s no wonder people (including Italians) get confused – at the restaurant San Carlo Ciccetti in London, they list bruschetta (the classic type with garlic, basil and tomatoes) as a type of crostini. This restaurant, incidentally, is perfectly situated for refuelling prior to an afternoon sally to The Royal Academy – it’s on the opposite side of the road close to Picadilly Circus.
Whether bruschette or crostini, this is a good way of using up a left-over stick of French bread.
To make crostini or bruschette:
- Pre-heat the oven to 210°C
- For bruschette, cut slices of about 1 cm/½” thickness, vertically (makes them smaller and easier to manage), cut a fat garlic clove in half and rub each slice. For crostini, cut slightly thinner slices, don’t bother with the garlic.
- paint with olive oil (for a whole ficelle you’ll need about ½ cup/120ml – another advantage of using cup measures is that you can just use the cup you’ve measured into – then use a pastry brush)
- place on a baking tray and roast for five minutes or so – keep a hawk eye on them, especially if you have an aga, slightly stale bread will roast better but only takes a trice. Once just turning gold, turn, and cook for another couple of minutes or so, again watching beady-eyed.
- leave to cool (you can make a couple of hours ahead – store in a tuppa) and then anoint with whatever you need to use up – see below for some inspiration.
Good toppings for crostini and bruschette are:
- No-topping – but you need good quality olive oil, fresh garlic, and some chunky sea salt
- classic – with tomato and basil
- smoked eel and mayonnaise
- truffled wild mushrooms (mix fried mushrooms with some cream and chives and either slivers of truffle (in which case use as garnish) or some truffle cream paste
- or mushrooms fried with garlic and white wine
- courgette flowers
- tapenade and chopped black olives
- cooked cannellini beans mashed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary
- gorgonzola and honey
- sea urchins
- burrata, Parma ham and marinated black truffle (on the San Carlo Ciccetti menu)
- goats’ cheese, beetroot and sultanas
- radicchio, pear and an Irish blue cheese
- crab, tomato, and parsley
- pesto, prosciutto and roasted artichoke
- ricotta, chopped black olives, capers and basil
- ricotta and broad beans
- an idea from Nigel Slater’s A Year Of Good Eating: with soft goats’ cheese, thyme, black olives and ‘nduja – a type of spreadable, spiced Italian sausage
- typically Tuscan – roughly-chopped chicken livers – good served with Vin Santo… or any other sweet wine…Marsala, Madeira, Mavrodaphne…
- cavolo nero, cannellini beans, garlic and chilli flakes
- suggested by Diana Henry in her new book, Simple: lardo (a type of salumi made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices) and honey
For a post on hibiscus crostini with brie and almonds follow this link.
For a post on the best bruschette I have ever eaten, follow this link.