GUEST: English Lady, French Man, Italian Man, Scotch Man, African, Chinese Lady
The perfect slice of toast possesses an evenly brown, crunchy exterior and a warm, slightly moist interior. Creating this requires exposure to temperatures in excess of 310 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, starches and sugars begin to decompose and turn brown. Science types call this the Maillard reaction. Me? I call it golden brown and delicious. Of course to produce it, we're going to require some specialized technology.
The first electric appliance to mass-populate American homes was indeed
the electric toaster. Released in 1908, it was really nothing more than
a metal body, a couple of hinges, and some wires. But it housed the new
fangled chromium nickel resistance wire which applied the heat. Now all
the early machines were strictly manual. There was basically a
little door or a rack that held
the bread up against the wires,
and then you had to flip it over and toast the other side if you wanted
both sides toasted. Very, very, very manual. A few machines had
interesting little racks for easy flipping. But still, if you didn't
pay attention, you'd set your toast on fire and burn down the house.
Luckily, 1926 saw the birth of the automatic, pop-up toaster machine, which housed a mechanism which could not only time the cooking, but would turn off the machine and pop up the bread when it was done.
Although the pop up toaster was indeed a boon to breakfast lovers, the golden age of toasters would have to wait for one more technical development. In 1930, the Continental Baking Company invented sliced bread. The best thing since itself. Today, toaster collectors shell out big bucks for rare specimens. There are toaster collector clubs, websites, there's even a toaster museum.
When shopping for a new toaster, please do not be seduced by looks. The
best looking machines are usually the most expensive machines, and
oddly enough they usually don't make very good toast. So here are the important
things to keep in mind.
Number 1: What is the toaster made of? Metal? Well metal's very, very pretty. But its really hard to keep clean, and it has the tendency to get hot during toasting. I got a 4 year old. I don't need that kind of trouble. Which is why I like plastic. Stays cool to the touch.
Next question: How many slots? You can have 4 slots, you can have 2 slots, or a single slot. I like the single slot. This machine does not take up much space, and look: you can either put in 2 standard pieces of bread, or you can fit in one nice big piece like sourdough. There. This model also has a little cage that traps the bread and holds it right in the middle so that it will toast evenly. Truth is, single slot machines usually are pretty even because there are fewer electrical elements involved.
Controls? Well I like to see a fine shade control. I'm kind of picky about my toast. I'm going to put this one up to 5. We've also got a reheat button, which is nice. A defrost for frozen things like waffles. And, even a bagel setting, which toasts just on one side.
And here, the most important thing about a toaster. I want to see a crumb tray. Without this, you cannot keep your toaster clean. And a clean toaster is a safe toaster.
So if you like your toast plain, and you like it on a regular basis, you could do much worse than following these specs. However, if you'd like to have a little more freedom to play, you might consider another option.
With a decent toaster oven in your possession, not only can you toast plenty of plain toast, you can toast cheese toast. Or well heck, any other kind of toast you feel like. And if you've got a good one, you can even broil a steak. And check this out. [turns on toaster oven, a white hot bar comes on] Ha ha ha. Some of the newer models use a combination of light and infrared to heat up about, oh, a hundred times faster than the old resistance coils. I think I'm in love.
AB: [About to bite into a piece of toast]
EL: [interrupting] Deary, you really should keep the toast in a rack to keep it from getting soggy. And this marmalade simply is not up to snuff.
AB: Lady, truth is, I don't really much like marmalade.
EL: [offended] Excuse me.
AB: No, excuse me.
You know, most of my favorite French foods were born either out of frugality or necessity. Take for instance, pain perdu [points to Frenchman eating French toast] or "lost bread". What was born as a method for dealing with day old bread years and years ago, today stands as the finest Franco contribution to the culinary arts. French toast.
AB: [to Frenchman] Hey, could I have just a little bite of that?
FM: [slaps AB's hand]
AB: OK. I'll go make my own.
Making French toast is a lot like making bread pudding, only a
little bit trickier. Each piece should be perfectly brown and crunchy
on the outside, but inside should be moist but set, kind of like a
custard. Its a simple dish, but like all simple, great things, every
Now first we need to shop for the batter. We're going to need some regular old grade A eggs. These say free roaming, so I'm going to keep the lid on just in case they go some place. We're also going to need some half and half. Just a very, very small container. Do not try to use low fat milk or skim milk, or even whole milk. They've got too much water in them and not enough fat or protein. Now for the batter you're also going to need some honey of your choice, a little bit of kosher salt, and half a stick of butter. Hey, what can I say? It's French. Now, on to the really important stuff.
In England, French toast is called "Poor Knights of Windsor."
Since it is a left over utilization application, French toast can be fabricated from pretty much any bread, as long as the slices are at least half an inch thick. That said, the bread does need to be real, meaning that the ingredient list looks more like this ...
|Whole Wheat Flour
... than it does this. See the problem with these ingredients is that they're all about shelf life, not flavor or nourishment. Bread loaded up with this stuff has a half life of, I don't know, Uranium-238. That means it goes stale very slowly. And to tell you the truth, it really never does toast up well.
Now this is my market's standard sandwich loaf. And I like it a lot
for, you know, sandwiches and toast. But for French toast, I
really prefer a hardy white loaf. Something kind of artisanal, not too
crusty, not too soft. If you want something a little denser and richer,
try brioche, which is a slightly sweetened yeast bread, or challah. Now
challah has a wide open structure that produces a very light French
toast. And its got some egg in it, so it goes stale very nicely, which
is a good thing for French toast.
Now if your mega-mart has any kind of bakery department, they probably got an automatic slicer. So if you don't feel like mowing this stuff down yourself, just ask.
AB: [to Baker] My good man, would you mind slicing this for me.
BAKER: Not at all. Thick or thin?
AB: Hmmm, I'd say about half an inch.
BAKER: I'll do it for you.
You know, I am the first to admit, I am not much of a morning person, which is why I like to make my French toast custard at night. Their are plenty of advantages. For one thing, I won't have to do it tomorrow. For another thing, the custard will probably taste better because mature custards usually do. And the other advantage is that it always reminds me to put out some bread to dry.
That lady was right: toast racks are very, very nice. Especially when you make them out of, you know, 3 cents of wire. This may be the most important step in making French toast, okay? Fresh bread will just fall apart when the batter hits the pan. Stale bread soaks up plenty of custard while remaining sturdy. Just make sure, 8 hours minimum. I mean it. Now come on.
8-1/2 inch slices of day-old or stale bread
The custard will start with 1 cup of half and half. To that, we're going to add some honey. Oh, and I like to put the honey in the microwave for a few seconds because it's easier to work with and it integrates better into the custard. I'm just going to kind of eyeball two tablespoons here: one, two. And we're going to need a little salt. Hmm, let's see here. I'm going to guess a quarter of a teaspoon. Oh these? [holds up measuring spoons he has on his person] I like being prepared. And three eggs. Just large eggs. One, two, three. And just whisk gently to combine.
|1 Cup Half-N-Half
2 Tbs. Honey
1/4 tsp. Salt
3 Large Eggs
If you're having like your in-laws over for breakfast you may want to strain this to get out the ropey chalazae. But hey it's just me and I don't care. There we go. And just put a plate on top and get this back into the refrigerator. That way we're all set in the morning. [Yawns] I'm tired. Look at the time. You don't mind cleaning up. Great. Good night.
Ahhh. Good morning. Let's make that French toast. Step one, pour yourself a cup of Joe. Step two, retrieve your custard. Step three, check your bread. Perfect. Step four, set your oven for 375 degrees.
Step five, make sure that you have a rack in the middle or just above
the middle. Why? Because we're going to bake on it. Why bake? Well,
look at it this way. French toast, when it's good, is crispy on the
outside and creamy on the inside. The best way to insure that is to
cook it twice. Once in the pan and once in the oven. You're going to
need a rack to do some draining and you're going to need a pan to catch
some stuff. You're also going to need one pie or cake pan.
Pour the custard in the pan and drop in the first two pieces of bread. Now let those soak for thirty seconds on each side. No more no less.
Flip and repeat. Now you watch those, I'm going to go get the butter.
Okay, everybody out of the pool. Now these pieces have taken onboard all the liquid that they need. But that doesn't mean they have soaked it all in. By letting these rest for two minutes or so, that liquid will move into the core of the bread. And that is going to make all the difference later on.
Now, in the mean time, heat your largest non-stick skillet over medium low heat until it's nice and toasty. We'll say around 350 to 375 degrees. Now, butter just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. And as soon as it starts to bubble down go ahead and introduce the toast. As soon as those go in, go ahead and start soaking two more.
[voice over] This should only take you five to ten minutes to brown all of your toast pieces on both sides.
When the last pieces are done, move them off to the rack and then move this whole contraption to the oven set to 375 as we said. I usually just move these to the rack but if you don't want to do that you could move this rack to the rack. That's just as good isn't it. Give these five minutes for the custard to firm up. And in the mean time, get ready to eat.
AB: [to the toast] I'll be back boys.
To make extra-crunch French toast,
battered bread in crushed corn flakes before cooking.
[takes a bite of his French toast]
Mmm. Now that is good eats. As you can see, I'm kind of a minimalist. I
just go with the maple syrup. But you could certainly go with
fresh, seasonal fruit, maybe some powdered sugar, some nice, whipped
cream. Mmm, any way its delicious.
So you've probably noticed that I've only got 2 pieces here, um, where are the rest? Take a look. What I've got here is a regular, old
household heating pad. You know, like you put on a sore back. I've got it turned to "warm". On top of that, I've got a nice. clean tea towel, my pieces of French toast, and a pan turned on top. This way, I can keep the pieces of toast perfectly warm without them getting soggy or drying out, for about an hour. Not that they'll last that long. Now excuse me.
Cinnamon toast was popular in the 17th century and was made by covering toast with a paste of cinnamon and sugar moistened with wine.
Leave it to the Italians to devise the simplest and perhaps tastiest toast treat of all time. Now this word [bruschetta] is hotly debated here in America because it has 2 correct pronunciations: broo-SKEH-tah and broo-SHEH-tah, although I tend to think broo-SKEH-tah is a little more authentic.
Now the other misconception we have about bruschetta is that it should be piled high with toppings as if it were mini-pizza. Ask an Italian, and an Italian will tell you ...
ITALIAN MAN: Bruschetta, tutto dipende da come la tosti. [inaccurate spelling]
I have no idea what he said, but I think it came down to
counts." But that doesn't mean details don't. They do. Especially
What you want to do is take a narrow Italian or French loaf and cut it on the bias no more than three quarters of an inch thick. Any thicker and the outside will burn before the inside is cooked through.
Now, why on the bias? Physics, my friends. It's a lot easier to bite through a hard piece of crust on the diagonal, than it is on the vertical. And bias just kind of looks better on the plate.
Now roughly translated, bruschetta means to roast over coals. But 4 out of the 5 Italians I talked to said that they either do this under the broiler in their regular oven or they turn to a tool that fits nicely in most tiny European kitchens, our friend the toaster oven.
Two minutes per side should do the trick. But, remember, toast can go from darn good eats to DOA lickity split. And by the time you smell burnt toast, its too late. So keep an eye on it.
The moment that the toast comes out of the oven you must spring into action if we are to convert this into true bruschetta. Because I am told that the real difference between one and the other comes down to rubbing this [piece of toast] with a piece of garlic while this [toast] is still piping hot. Just cut the garlic in half and just rub it right on there until ... [drops garlic, chuckles] Sorry, its kind of tricky. You just rub it on ... [drops garlic again] You know what they don't tell you is you're supposed to keep hold of a little piece of garlic ...
|THING: [hands him a whole
garlic cut in half]
Who says you have to use 1 clove, when you've got this? Just cut a head in half. [rubs toast with a half head of garlic] Hey, that's nice.
1/2 Head Of Garlic
After a good rubbing with garlic, a quick brushing with a fruity, extra virgin olive oil. Then a sprinkling of coarse salt, a couple of grinds of pepper, and you've got real garlic bread.
|2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper To Taste
OK, if you have to add something else, I'll allow arugula and maybe a few tomatoes. But that's it.
Bruschetta derives from the Italian bruscare meaning "to roast over coals."
[sips drink] Ah, the English have long enjoyed topping their toast with a
wide range of tasty food stuffs. And no dish captures this tradition
better than the 18th century tavern meal known as Welsh Rabbit.
Actually there's no rabbit necessary. The moniker was designed as
slight by the English, who created the dish, towards the Welsh, who
they considered shifty, shiftless, and usually broke. So broke, in
fact, that they might actually call a piece of cheese a rabbit. [fake laugh]
The rarebit variation probably came up quite a bit later as, you know,
an effort to appease, I don't know, rabbit fans.
Whatever you call it, I certainly would say that any dish that utilizes both beer and cheese onto toast, good eats. When I do mine, I like to do it right in front of the fire with my camp stove, which is basically a cast iron Dutch oven with little feet on it. If you don't have one of these, I'm sure you're going to get one. But until then, just make the sauce in a heavy sauce pan over low heat. Let's get started, shall we?
[voice over] Get things started by melting 2 tablespoons of butter. Then, whisk in 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Whisk well. Follow that with 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce. Very traditional. Half a teaspoon of kosher salt and a half teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
|2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
2 Tbs. AP Flour
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
Next, half a cup of good dark beer. No, this isn't wasting it. And now three quarters of a cup of cream. Light or heavy, it doesn't really matter. And now the cheese: 6 ounces by weight of shredded cheddar cheese. Aged cheese tastes great, but its a little tough to melt and it can get grainy. So just go with straight-forward, sharp cheddar cheese. And add it a handful at a time. Let that handful melt before you add more.
|1/2 Cup Porter Beer
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
6 oz. Shredded Cheddar
There. Once all the cheese is in, we can do some final seasoning. I'm just going to taste. Mmm. A little hot sauce might be nice. Just a few drops. There we go. We'll stir that in later.
|2 Drops Hot Sauce|
Of course the cheese will
start to get grainy if we leave this over such high heat, so I'm going to
put on the lid, and just take it off the fire to keep it warm.
Now we turn our attention to the main item, toast ... well, toast to be. I like rye bread, and you can use it as thick as you want to cut it. This is just plain, old sandwich cut. And I've put mine on—that's right—a toast fork. Not only a toast fork, a telescoping toast fork, which is excellent for turning toast. Give this a couple minutes. Just till it turns brown.
UL regulations state that all
toasters must perform their
duties for at least 6000 cycles or about 16 years.
|[pours sauce over toast triangles]
|4 Slices Toasted Rye Bread|
The real secret to success here is to not let the sauce get too hot,
okay? If it comes to a boil, its going to be grainy. The other key is
to not let the toast get too hot. You win some, you lose some.
You know there are very few things on this planet as tasty and as simple as a slice of toast. No, it is not the most complicated culinary maneuver you're likely to manage, but it is worth thinking about and doing right. Whether its intended passenger is marmalade, caviar, custard, cheese sauce, or just a little dab of butter, toast is all about good eats. See you next time.
Transcription by Ed Lee
Last Edited on 08/27/2010