Once upon a time toast was something you threw under the grill before adding either butter or margarine, and perhaps some jam, for a quick, hassle-free breakfast. Or, if you were pushing the boat out perhaps a toasted slice would find its way onto your lunch menu, buried under sardines, cheese or baked beans.
Rarely seen outside of these slots, toast is now emerging from its role as the Cinderella of the bread realm, finding a place in a growing trend of gourmet (or ‘posh’) toast shops, as well as on the menus of cafes and upmarket restaurants. Toast is finally claiming its rightful place and becoming the star of meals, rather than always playing a supporting role. Let your imagination run free, as you learn more about how easily toast can move beyond being a breakfast or lunch food, and be transformed into an upmarket feast suitable for dinner, as a fancy snack or even as a dessert.
Recipes which promote toast to this role come in all shapes and sizes, from low fat to vegan, and can be adapted to cater for those with special dietary needs. Nothing is as flexible as toast when you’re looking for a filling, comforting and yet classy meal.
When toast is to be the centre of attention at the table the key ingredient is obviously bread, and you may be surprised to learn that the version used for star attraction recipes is quite different from the loaf you probably use to make breakfast. While plain white bread does feature in some cases, it’s likely been hand-crafted, and will always be unsliced. The most popular breads used for posh toast include rye, granary, sourdough and ciabatta, though vegetable breads, such as tomato or courgette are growing in popularity. Less obvious breads are not overlooked either, as some recipes call for baguettes, to produce a crispier finish, or brioche, which complements sweeter toppings.
It’s difficult to know for sure if toast recipes have moved into the gourmet league due to the rapidly increasing options of artisanal breads around, but regardless, the market for hearty, unusual and specialist breads has definitely blossomed in the last couple of years, and it is now easier than ever to source pretty much any kind of loaf you want, from either the supermarket or from local specialist bakeries and delicatessens. Bread making at home is also becoming more popular, either by hand in traditional style, or with a labour saving bread machine.
If you’ve been inspired by the fare on offer at local gourmet toast shops, or are simply looking to add something different to your home cooking options, there’s never been a better time to try out some gourmet toast recipes at home.
When you are planning to try a recipe for gourmet toast there’s one piece of kitchen equipment which is pretty much essential to your success – the toaster. When toast is the key ingredient it’s vital the bread is cooked evenly and for the correct amount of time. That’s quite a challenge considering that not only will your bread be sliced much thicker than average, it may well be a non-traditional shape as well.
For excellent results every time it’s worth investing in a toaster advanced enough to sense and respond correctly to a variety of breads, whatever their shape and size. Take a look at the current range of toasters from a reliable and well established company such as Kenwood, and you’ll soon find the perfect model for your needs.
Overall then the key features of a successful gourmet toast recipe feature: a toaster which can produce evenly browned bread, even if it’s thicker or of a different shape than the regular loaves; high quality bread, and fresh, top class ingredients.
Meals which feature toast as the star ingredient should be made from a bread which provides the perfect match to the ingredients chosen to top it, although most recipes offer a great degree of flexibility, allowing you the opportunity to make the choices that best suit your taste, or even to just use up what you happen to have in the cupboard. The most flexible bread base tends to be sourdough. It goes with everything, retains its shape and texture well, and has a subtle taste which won’t automatically overpower the ingredients added. Wholemeal loaves offer similar flexibility, while relative newcomers such as courgette or sun-dried tomato bread offer a stronger flavour which can carry a different kind of topping.
Whether you’re looking for a new brunch recipe, a snack dish that could grace the best Top Chef kitchen, an indulgent yet simple dessert or even a meal suitable for a large group to enjoy – a fancy toast recipe can deliver.
Here are five fantastic ideas for meals where toast is very definitely the centre of attention, and they’re all very flexible. Feel free to adjust, omit or switch key ingredients to suit your own tastes….