Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Give us this day our daily toast

Freud maintained that the way people behave is often the result of traumas they have suffered in the past. Well this morning, I didn't have any crumpets with my coffee. Who knows what ramifications this undoubtedly traumatic event could have on my life in the future?

Anyway, maybe it won't matter in the long run, because this morning, I had something that was every bit as good as crumpets if done well, and that was toast. How good is toast? You can make it with honey or jam, or vegemite or marmalade, and it tastes wonderful. Note that you 'make' toast: you don't just 'cook' it, or 'fry' it, or 'boil' it or 'bake' it, like you would to an egg or a steak or something like that. And you don't just 'have' it, like you would 'have' a bowl of cornflakes, or muesli: no, toast is far too complex for that. In order to produce a completed plate of toast, you have to go through a complicated ritual, involving several steps, just like you would when making an omelette, or a pudding, or a cake.


But having typed that, of course, I have to admit there is no 'perfect' slice of toast, only delicious variations on a theme which appeal to different toast-eaters. That being said, there are so many traps the toast-maker can fall into, and which are so easily avoidable.

Firstly, what sort of bread will you be toasting? It is no good making toast out of any old slice of home brand supermarket white bread. That stuff is so insubstantial that it turns to tasteless dry flour the moment it's put into a toaster.

When it comes to sliced and packaged breads, I prefer the Burgen brand, as it is full and juicy and you can still taste it when it comes out of the toaster. (Not, mind you, its imitator, Burgomeister). Yes, it is just an imitation Germanic label, but it makes good toast.

Otherwise, a good roll of rye bread or sourdough from a baker will perform quite well in the toaster, and I find the thick slices preferable. Besides, the eccentric shapes you can make with the bread knife on your own are more aesthetically pleasing than the regular rectangles sold in the supermarket. Ciabattas and rye breads are particularly good with honey or syrup.

An ancient tradition from the mists of time (ie, my mum) informs us that toast is to be made by bread that is starting to go stale. A good rule to follow, although in some cases the bread may go mouldy before it goes stale, and it may go mouldy a day after you buy it. In these cases, of course, common sense ought to be the guide.

Secondly we come to the toasting part. You will have got the bread by now, and you will obviously need a toaster (if you don't have a toaster, go out and get one right now). How long should one toast the toast for? I am a 'give it two turns in the toaster' man myself, as I like toast to have colour and character. A fringe of black around the corners of a slice of toast may or may not increase the risk of cancer; but it is certainly delicious. In fact, to get best results, I recommend putting the toast in for one-and-a-half turns; to do this properly, you of course have to stand by the toaster just as you stand by the stove when you are cooking something on it. You should pay attention to your toast!

Thirdly, the condiments. Toast is made to go with butter: on this point I am quite firm. It is no good objecting that margarine is healthier (pah!) or melts better: butter tastes better, and renders the consistency of the toast more pleasing, if applied correctly.

There are some steps you can take to make the butter melt over and into the toast in a pleasing fashion. You could leave the butter out whilst making the toast, allowing it time to grow soft and pliable. You can also make the knife with which you are spreading the butter hot by pouring a little boiling water into a glass, and dipping the knife in that. (I do this every morning at breakfast after making the coffee: toast should frequently be had with coffee). Once you have spread it, give the butter a little time to melt: it's like Pantene - it won't happen over a second, but it will happen. And then, once the butter has been spread, you can proceed with the condiments.

Here are some of my favourite spreads:

- Orange Marmalade
- Cherry jam
- Honey
- Creamed honey
- Vegemite
- Or, if you are making toast with sourdough or ciabatta, and have taken care to let the butter soak into the surface of the toast, making it soft and pliable, a drizzle of golden syrup.

Various received traditions have urged upon me, from time to time, the virtues of toast-with-liverwurst, or even peanut butter. I do not agree: I think toast is to be had primarily with sweet-or-sour spreads, and that the bitter contrast is to be found in the morning coffee.


This toast was brought to you by two slices of post made in my lovely silver toaster, with butter fresh from the butter tray.


vague said...

I feel in the mood for toast now, but unfortunately I have already eaten my breakfast! Maybe tomorrow.

On another note, did you know scientists once did formulate how to make the perfect slice of toast? Apparently it was a real study and the research funded with something like 10,000 pounds.

They also disagreed with your butter methodology - maybe you should make these findings known to them. It'll be the great toast/butter controversy of the millennium.

nailpolishblues said...

Cherry jam? Is that as good as it sounds?

I'm with you on the butter. Margarine does very odd things to bread that I don't want to be eating. Also, nothing goes so well with vegemite.

Anonymous said...

Apropos faux-Germanic naming, I have long thought of opening a chain of (healthy!) fast food restaurants called Burgermeister (a play on 'B├╝rgermeister' - German for 'mayor').

I find to my alarm and dismay (although not, I must admit, my surprise) that it's already been done by the Americans:


Dale Slamma said...

TimT said...

But surely, Vague, the making of toast is the making of a work of art! Scientists can only tell us so much about this.

Nails - yes, yes cherry jam is as good as it sounds. I buy that stuff in the long skinny bottles they sell in Coles and Woolies. It tastes delicious. I can't remember the brand name, and I couldn't find any old bottles lying around. But it's delicious (it's made of whole cherries)!

Never mind David. How about we go halfs on a restaurant specialising in Spam? We can call it Spamburgermeister.

Dale - thank you for this important and informative link. I shall now spend many self-improving hours over there.

Martin Kingsley said...

Tim, you're overthinking this one, I'm afraid.

Accepting as truth the hypothesis that you are far too well-adjusted in your comings-and-goings within the confines of your everyday life, and that most other times you have managed to supply yourself with crumpets (or an appropriate crumpet substitute), or at worst managed to not notice that you weren't having crumpets with your tea (in, say, your adolescence, as terrifying a thing as it is to contemplate your pubescence), I can only suggest you are actually a fairly straitjacketed serial killer in the making, just aching to whip out the Black & Dekker and drown the voices with a rising tide of blood and/or lymph, and that only the crumpets have been keeping you sane, the unique nutrients the crumpet people put in crumpets to make them so delicious and fluffy fueling your brain's attempts to straitjacket your murderlust. Best nip down the supermarket, Tim. Best nip down there now, or it's the 6 o'clock news for you, my son.

Martin Kingsley said...

Except, y'know, now it's Thursday, and you've probably had some crumpets, so...y'know. Crisis averted. And stuff. *sniff*

TimT said...

Gotcha. Predilection for cherry jam actually barely suppressed primal urge for blood, crumpet flesh substitute, etc etc.

Martin Kingsley said...

It's all very New Testament.

Steve said...

The cherry jam I buy is the French brand that comes in a jar with a fake clothe pattern on the top. I'm not sure whether supermarkets stock it, but most deli's do. I think it is tasty, although it did cross my mind years ago that I hoped they didn't source their cherries from somewhere too close to Chenobyl.

Crumpets with butter and honey are a match made in heaven.

And you are quite correct: toast bread must be cut to toast thickness.

TimT said...

I think the butter and golden syrup combination is slightly better on crumpets. If crumpet/butter/honey is a match made in heaven, then crumpet/butter/golden-syrup is the beatific vision of crumpets.

Re: radioactive cherries. When dad buys jam, and notices that it's from Poland or Russia, he frequently refers to it as radioactive jam, and makes jokes about it glowing, before spreading it on a slice of bread or toast and proceeding to eat it all up. Perhaps it was through frequent exposure to this sort of activity as a child that I became largely blase about nuclear energy and its uses!

Steve said...

The brand I was referring to is Bonne Marman.

My wife recently bought their chestnut spread: see here

I have not tried it on toast, just had it with vanilla ice cream, but it's great. (I must do a post about my love of all things chestnut. We even have a bottle of chestnut liquor at home, which is great. I don't think I had ever eaten a chestnut until I first went to Japan, but I know they are sold roasted on the streets of Melbourne now.)

Dan the VespaMan said...

A little surprised to hear no mention of raisin toast. I have frequently been found incoherent in tears of joy as a result of raisin toast with lashings of butter.

Maria said...

Mr Coffee and I have actually often made our toast using one of them sandwich toaster/griller things. Rather than a toaster. this works extremely well for crumpets as they are a bit bulkier. So long as you know how to use one and don't squash the crumpet.

I'm surprised you didn't touch on:

raisin toast
grilled cheese on toast

I think you'll have to do a follow up toast post!

Here is a tip for if you ever go to hospital.

(I don't know about private hospitals which might mean gold class treatment, but definitely not in a public hospital)

When I have been in hospital you generally get a little menu in the morning and you tick the boxes of what you want for breakfast. lunch and dinner and this is whizzed off and prepared for you for the rest of the day, unless you are on an IV tube or a set diet from your doctor.

The choice is limited and a bit iffy. Breakfast boxes are something like "Coffee" "Tea" "Juice" "Cereal" "Porridge" "Boiled Egg" "Toast - 1 slice" "Bread - 1 slice" "Fruit" plus an array of condiments.

You can choose as many boxes as you like to tick.

If you feel like your carbs, choose bread or porridge over toast.

If you choose toast, it will come to you like a piece of cardboard.

This is because they - yikes - toast the bread, then slip it into a paper packet, then probably line them up on trays with all the other food, and check all the trays are ok (while your toast is cooling!) and then the trolley ladies take their time coming round to deliver it to you, meanwhile your toast has become one hard cold lump.

This is a Maria tip.

Steve said...

Ah yes, I had forgotten about raison toast. It is good, and I should buy some this weekend.

I have never quite gotten my head around French toast, though.

And do readers care for muffins? The ones you typically buy from the supermarket are a little too small, I find.

TimT said...

Ah, raisin toast! It's my raison d'etre, I tell you!

At any rate, I'd imagine the method is just the same for raisin toast, but with no jam/honey on top of the butter. Just the butter melting over the sultanas, that's the way.

Steve said...

Oh, and grilled cheese on toast is very satisfying, but more for lunch than breakfast.

I quite like a layer of tuna on toast, covered by cheese and then grilled. I figure the omega 3 good oils do battle in my stomach with the saturated fat in the cheese, and everyone eventually calls a truce and leaves before the plague builds up on my arteries.

Steve said...

That should be plaque on my arteries, not "plague".

Maria said...

I haven't tried French Toast in a long time.

Mr coffee and I tried making our own muffins. Not the long way round. Just buying one of those short cut muffin mixes and a muffin tray. We've tried chocolate ones and blueberry ones and I think one was apple and something. Not bad.

I bought some muffins from the pastry section at Woolies and they were quite generous sized. Not in a pack, just individual ones. I bought them at night but they stand up well to reheating the next morning, if you don't want to eat them that night as a snack.

Tip: I don't know much about other Woolies branches, but the Woolies in the city near Town Hall in Sydney has a big pastry section with twists/danishes/muffins/doughnuts. They are supposed to bought individually not in packets, you have plastic bags and tongs to help yourself to them.

On most nights after around 6:30pm or after 7pm (arbitrary) they go on either half-price or 2 for 1. So if you are there at around that time and they haven't gone down in price yet, wait a few minutes and then they will put up the sign and grab your muffins!

Also their cheese twists are not nearly as good as the chocolate or hazelnut ones. The cheese is a bit dry and doesn't stand to reheating well.

Maria said...

I've tried sardines on my toast a few times. I quite like that.

I treat the sardines like a spread. They don't look great afterwards.

I have tried some raisin muffins - not muffins like the little cupcakey muffins but the ones that look like crumpets without the holes.

Those kinda muffins.

One brand was very stingy, can't remember its name but it prettymuch had only one raisin in the whole of one of my muffin!


Maria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Tim, a splendid idea re: the restaurant. I just got back from the supermarket where I was served by one Frau Burger. I promise I'm not making this up. She should definitely come and work for us.

Caz said...

Err, margarine is not and never has been "healthier" than real to goodness butter. That's an enduring myth, bought to you by your local multinational conglomerate.

Crumpets with golden syrup is the only worthy combination. Honey might be good for healing wounds, but doesn't have a patch on golden syrup for everything else.

The local Brumbies has a "raisin" bread that is actually a dried apricot & other fruit-stuff bread - aahhhh - to die for.

Maria - yeeesss - sardines on buttery toast is the very best way to obtains one's omega 3s.

Maria said...

Mr Coffee has his crumpets with maple syrup!

He went crazy recently and bought jars and jars of maple syrup on special!

david - Frau Burger? She was born to work for your chain.

It reminds me that I was watching Scrubs recently. It's a medical comedy and I saw in the credits a person named Mr Gottbetter.
How could he have been drawn to work for anything other than a medical show? They must have picked him on the strength of his name.

M-H said...

Banana on toast is one of my favourite breakfasts. With a few drops of lemon juice and a tiny soupcon of sugar mixed in. Real butter of course. A young doctor recently tried to insist that a particular brand of margarine had been shown to lower cholesterol and I should be using it. I cunningly asked "But what about the transfats?" She had no idea what I was talking about, and I left her googling madly. Verrry satisfying.

Caz said...

M-H - there is a spread, not exactly a margarine, designed specifically to help lower cholesterol - called Proactive, or something ... ?? (Or maybe that's the name of a milk ... anyways, the cholesterol lowering thingy is clearly identified on the pack in your local dairy section.) So, you're GP wasn't making that up, it's scientifically proven, not false advertising. Alas, it doesn't taste like butter.

On the other hand, if she doesn't know a transfat from her elbow, she shouldn't be offering nutritional advice.

That's the problem with GPs, they're not nutritionists, don't know any more about the food chain or food safety than the rest of us, but they not only throw out advice, their patients very often willingly catch it.

Add some fruit and vegies on a daily basis, even if only one more of each a day, stick with it, works a charm for lowering cholesterol.

Avoid the cholesterol lowering drugs like the plague, they affect people's memory, sometimes permanently.

Anonymous said...

Maria, what's even more strange is that I haven't seen Frau Burger at the supermarket since that fateful day. I've been back several times - ostensibly to buy food, but taking the opportunity to conduct some secret reconnaissance of the staff. Maybe she's already been poached by some other local entrepreneur.

As for Mr Gottbetter - I agree. The hand of Fate dealt him the cards, and he played them the only way possible. Who knows what kind of crashing failure he'd have been had he tried to, say, open a euthanasia clinic?

Email: timhtrain - at -

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