Toast: A slice of heaven.


Stock image Ozzy Delaney via Flickr
Stock image Ozzy Delaney via Flickr

“Yeah, but I don’t half like toast….” Streetband

Toast, such a small word for such a wonderful thing, technically toast is the result of radiant heat being applied to bread causing what is called the Maillard reaction.

The Maillard reaction (/maɪˈjɑːr/ my-yar; French pronunciation: [majaʁ]) is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, cookies and other kinds of biscuits, breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

In simpler terms the sugars in the bread are caramelised turning it that wonderful brown colour.

Here in the UK we eat over 94 million slices of toast a day, but are we doing it right? For best results the bread should be around half an inch thick, and toasted under a grill so you can watch for the correct golden brown colour. A slice of toast should be crisp on the outside but still fluffy inside, don’t butter it immediately leave it a few seconds to let the steam escape ensuring a crisp crunch when you bite it, and please, please use butter, do not use one of those coloured chemistry experiments in a carton that go under the name spread.

The wonderful thing about toast is its versatility, almost anything can be added to toast, try grating some cheese adding a couple of dollops of mayonnaise, a dash of Worcester sauce, and spreading the mixture onto toast before popping it back under the grill for a really tasty cheese on toast. It can even enhance the classic English Breakfast if served on the side, the combination of fried bacon, egg, sausage etc. etc. a slice of toast’s close cousin fried bread, a cup of coffee with a side order of toast can not be beaten as a way of starting the day.

Toast has a long history, the word comes from the Latin torrere, which means to burn, obviously the Romans were doing it wrong. The first known example of toast in print is in a recipe for Oyle Soppys (flavoured onions stewed in a gallon of stale beer and a pint of oil) that dates from 1430. In the fifteenth and sixteenth Century toast was used to flavour drinks, after which it was then eaten or thrown away, who wants soggy toast anyway? Shakespeare even uses this in a line of the Merry Wives of Windsor in 1616 when Falstaff says

“Go, fetch me a quart of Sacke [sherry], put a tost in ‘t.”

Even today toast is used to flavour same ales in the art of beer making.

So whether it is cut into “soldiers” and dipped into a soft boiled egg, or used to hold the contents of a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, toast is the go to bread product, toast really is the slice with the most.

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