Monday, September 11, 2006

On toast

This is one of those blog posts where I appreciate an underrated food. Yes, humble sliced bread lightly browned on both sides.

Nothing in life is simple, and good toast isn't just a matter of whacking the sliced stuff in the nukifier and slopping on the topping of choice when it pops out again. No, toast has to be done right.

First, you need one technique for real bread (which doesn't need toasting anyway - better fresh) and another for the stuff you get in gaudy plastic bags with the little plastic doohicky and an expiry date about a week in the future.

This post is about the latter.

First, let me describe the different kinds of toast. The worst kind, to me, is a slice which is spread with marge the instant it hit the plate. The problem here is that the huge amount of heat in the bread melts all the marge, the bread collapses and you end up with a damp flannel with chewy edges. Yuk.

Better is a slightly cooled slice which holds its shape, where the heat softens the marge (or butter, if that's your thing) and which goes CRUNCH when you bite it.

There's a reason they invented toast racks, you know, and it wasn't just so you could stand it all in a neat row. See, the bread still contains a load of moisture after toasting, and if you lay the stuff on a plate it'll just make a damp spot. Yuk again.

I'm a four slice guy, so four slices go into the toaster, which has the dial set to 3/4. Once they pop I leave them to cool for about five minutes. Is it ready after that?

Hell no.

Set the dial to 1/4 and give the toast another dose. This will dump more of the moisture and give you that all-important crunch. Incidentally, bis cuit is french for cooked twice, and biscuit toast is just how I like it. (If you use thin bread adjust the times downward or you'll end up with particle board.)

Remove the toast and - vital - make a tent on your plate with the slices. If you have a toast rack, great, but this works just as well. Let it cool for a couple of minutes and THEN do the spreading.

Now a note on the bread. For years I've worked my way through sliced loaves, always leaving the endy bit on top to keep the upper slice fresh. Once I reached the end of the bag, into the bin it went, along with both of the endy bits.

A week ago, facing endy bits or no toast, I slung them into the machine. POW! Best toast ever. Now I hoard those endy bits for special occasions.

Must go - the toast just popped and today I have three endy bits to enjoy.

(And if you have a toast method you wish to share, feel free to comment. Maybe we can start a PAHBB society - People for the Appreciation of Hot Browned Bread.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


James said...

All very important information but what is it that you put on the toast? I must admit that I throw the marg on as soon as the toast pops.

Simon Haynes said...

Marmalade or Promite. Not together, of course. (Promite isn't an explosive, it's a kind of vegetable tar.)

James said...

Hehe, I've had Promite before, not too bad if I remember correctly. Ever had Marmite? Funny, but if I had to guess, I would have said you were a Marmalade person.

Simon Haynes said...

When I was a kid in the UK it was Bovril all the way. After the BSE scare Bovril stopped being Beef Extract and became Vegetable extract instead.
My brother was into Marmite, but I never liked it. I don't much like Vegemite either, but I can live with Promite. (And what is it with all these mites?)
I don't mind plum or apricot jam, can stomach strawberry, but don't like raspberry at all. These days I avoid anything really sweet.

Anonymous said...

Toast is comfort food for me--the stuff of childhood.

I am inclined to put the butter on it the second it comes out of the toaster. I like mine that fine golden brown--and there's a nack for knowing when to take it out. The toaster never gets it right so I stand over it until it's just so-and quickly pull it up. I confess, want the margarine on it immediately, and if I'm being honest--I prefer butter. However it's pricey and we're cutting corners.

Dang, Simon, it's 1:45am and I'm hungry now. Thanks a lot . . . :)


Gabriele Campbell said...

I always let the toast cool a bit but I've never tried to toast it twice; must try it. When I have cheese* on it - which I want on hot toast so it melts a bit - I put the slices on kitchen paper to suck up that yucky moisture.

*Toast with cheddar, slices of hardboiled eggs, a bit mayonnaise, sprinkled with chives is heavenly.

So far, I've also thrown the ends into the bin.

Anonymous said...

You should submit that as a recipe to Gastronomicon 2. Write a toast story to go with it. :)

Simon Haynes said...

I think not

Paul Bines said...

"When I was a kid in the UK it was Bovril all the way. After the BSE scare Bovril stopped being Beef Extract and became Vegetable extract instead."
I don't know when it changed back, but this morning I was in my local convenience store and they had Bovril containing Beef Extract again... No, it wasn't old stock. (excuse the pun)

Simon Haynes said...

Yay! The veggie-based stuff is horrible.

What they should have done was set up a factory here in Australia, which has always been BSE-free. They could have shipped the stuff back to the UK in vats and bottled it there. (Which might be what they're doing now, of course. Does it say where it's made?)

Then again, maybe anything with BEEF on the label was just a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it!!!!! Finally someone who does their toast twice! I had to argue with my mates at my surf club about this....We went through 5 loaves to test it....Yep do it twice!!!!

Definitely toast with butter...Mmmmm
or eggs benedict

Simon Haynes said...

Yep, absolutely. And I usually let it cool down in between toastings so it goes really crunchy.

I've been experimenting with different breads and the thick sliced white bread won't go crispy. You need the skinny sandwich bread.

(If you're using a fresh, unsliced crusty loaf for toast, ignore everything I've said in the post. With that stuff you can toast it once until it's light brown and enjoy. I'm talking about pre-packaged sliced bread.)

Unknown said...

ever tried to keep your toast in the ice box or freezer compartment (or how it's called in english?) of your refrigerator?

from there you put it directly (meaning: ice hard) into your toaster - result:

very fresh, more stable and at the same time les dry (well: perhaps only in my imagination).

plus: the toastbread will live longer. good place for hoarding those endy bits too!

(thanks for you cool software by the way, and your hal spacejock's fun too - - oh yes: and please follow the idea of this other poster who proposed to you writing a story about it. to keep it fair: let the toast perhaps only cause one major incident at the start, the reason for some small war of the worlds or some, so you won't have to write ONLY about toast, you know, bring love in, a pair of lost twins and you're ready to go...)


michael (berlin, germany)