The Correct Use of Toast: Feast of the M60

Feast of the M60’s opportunist/timely post celebrates National Toast Day

Random slice of toast
“A little bit of…” toast, will mop away your bean juice. Image by Peter O’Connor, 2009 (Creative Commons License: Attribution Share Alike).

There is only one foodstuff that turns a cooked breakfast from SkyBet League Two to Barclays Premier League status. It is a five letter word which is also used to celebrate a momentous occasion. After about five minutes under the grill it goes well with baked beans, cheese, or a dippy fried egg. No prizes for guessing which one (it is too easy for a Midday Money question).

 

We could have ended our post there and let Luton’s best known singer tell you about the wonders of toast. We are not lazy like that. So sit back, relax, but before you do, set the toaster to an agreeable level and have a brew.

“The winner for the best use of toast is…”

It’s a three-way tie. Toast is best enjoyed on its own with a liberal spreading of butter, with baked beans, or with cheese. Just to complicate things further, this brings us to one question. Which butter, which brand of baked beans, and which cheese makes good toast?

Butter

My taste in butter isn’t too sophisticated: a case of “butter means butter”. Anchor Butter is passable, Country Life and Clover are good all-rounders, but slightly salted Lurpak has the all-important X Factor. Being able to tell Lurpak from Anchor is easier on cream crackers than on warm toast.

Lurpak works well on white, brown, wholemeal, granary and grey (that Bit Of Both cack in other words) toast.

Beans

There’s no contest. If you’re looking for the ultimate baked beans for your beans on toast, the bog standard Heinz ones are the gold standard. Some cafés from Whitstable to Stornoway could be mean with the beans by going for no-name baked beans. The difference between those and Heinz are discernible.

At one time, there were other pretenders to the throne trying to topple Heinz Baked Beans’ lofty position. At one time, HP Baked Beans was a close contender in their red tins. Crosse and Blackwell had green tins. Now they are blue and available in Poundland. The best second option to Heinz Baked Beans for me are Branston Baked Beans.

As for own brand varieties, it was at one time a case of “not if I can help it”. I blame the adverts. Well, strictly speaking, Sainsburys own brand were pretty good. ASDA’s, not bad. Morrisons’ beans were dire and put me off own brand beans for life. Then I tried ALDI’s Corale baked beans: the Best Budget Option was sewn up and my faith in own brand beans was renewed.

Cheese

In most cases, cheese is best enjoyed on crackers which means some cheeses will be ruined on toast. You cannot go far wrong with mature or extra mature Cheddar which works on any kind of bread. Red Leicester is good on brown toast, especially any Hovis brown loafs or wholemeal breads.

Which bread works best?

The best toast needs to be on thickly sliced bread – to a thickness of 1cm or above. Ultimately, this means buying or making an uncut loaf and slicing it yourself. Some of us don’t have that luxury, so we nip to our favourite superstore bakery counter and get it sliced.

Or we go to the bread counter and choose from: 1) The own brand thick loaf; 2) The thick loaf by the bakery which backs the Conservative Party; 3) The other thick loaf brand which doesn’t back the Tories; or 4) The adorable farmhouse bloomer, regardless of brand and/or the bakery’s political leanings. Or we buy some flour for the bread maker.

In our view, the following bread brands and varieties make for good toast every time:

  1. Iceland Sliced White Bloomer: A quid for a superb loaf? Bargain;
  2. Roberts Bakery Thick Sliced White Bread: a very good alternative to the top one;
  3. Hovis Thick Sliced Brown Bread: good with beans on toast, and cheese;
  4. Warburton’s Toastie White Bread: an evergreen favourite, especially in the greaseproof wrapping.

Better still, any bread from your locally owned bakery. Which in today’s major centres are a bit of a rarity.

Where can I find the best toast in Ashton-under-Lyne and why did I single out Ashton-under-Lyne?

Why did I single out the aforementioned Lancashire town? Like Blackpool, though till about 7pm, you can never go hungry in Ashton-under-Lyne. This due to the town’s wealth of independently owned cafés, and great breakfast joints. So far, our Top Toast League Table reads:

  1. Wright’s Café Central, Ashton Open Market (opposite Poundworld Plus);
  2. Caffe Roma, Market Avenue (top end opposite Admiral Casino);
  3. Avenue 18, Market Avenue (opposite JRS Models);
  4. Sorrento’s Café, Market Avenue/Stamford Street;
  5. The New Market Coffee Shop: Market Street (opposite Ashton Market Hall);
  6. Chris’ Café, Bow Street (opposite Ashton Open Market).

The undisputed winner in our view is Wright’s Café Central. The thickness and its butter to bread ratio is spot on. It is best enjoyed with bacon and egg.

Why stop at bacon and egg? Wright’s toast works wonders with baked beans (which from our observations are Heinz Baked Beans). Better still on their Welsh Rarebit. It goes well with Spam and with sausages.

Toasted bread or toasted muffins?

Muffins? Those fiddly breakfast ones? To clarify, East of the M60 has touched on the Great Bread Roll Based Geographical Divide in a previous post which is worth a read. For the purpose of this post, they will be referred to as muffins in the Oven Bottom Muffins sense.

On the Bread v. Muffins issue, oven bottom muffins should be toasted on the grill. This is both on taste grounds and safety grounds. With the latter, some types of oven bottom muffin can be caught in the toaster’s elements. Which means burnt fingers all round and no supper.

On taste grounds, not only a better move. A grill means we can add grated cheese to our oven bottoms.

For convenience, the toaster wins. Especially when you go through sliced loaves at a rate of knots. If you want to do cheese on toast, there are three other ways: the grill, Planit Products’ excellent Toastabags (a firm favourite at EM60 Towers), or a sandwich press – as seen at your local butty shop. What’s more, Toastabags are good for crumpets, potato cakes, and gluten free bread. Oh, and you can also do Breakfast Muffins in them (you know, the sort which are used in Egg McMuffins).

What else works well on toast?

Fruit-based preserves

Jam and marmalade are popular breakfast staples, usually at the end of a full English breakfast. I think jam on toast is a tad overrated. Home-made jam of any description I wouldn’t mind but Robertson’s Strawberry Jam is the only mass-market jam I would go for.

I prefer marmalade myself given the option. Especially with Seville oranges – with or without rind.

Spaghetti

Any Heinz spaghetti – shaped, straight, or hooped forms – are unimpeachable. I could go on for 45 minutes about Spaghetti Shapes And Their Role In A 1980s Child’s Lunch though there’s a future Feast of the M60 post in this.

Processed meat products

If you’re introducing processed meat products onto your slice of toast (bacon, sausage, luncheon meat), cutting corners is a no-no. First and foremost, make use of your friendly local butcher ahead of the superstore chains. If you’re buying bacon from a superstore, please note that cheaper bacon has a lot of water in its packaging. Always check the meat content in sausages (the higher the better): cheaper makes have soya, bread, and other bits which doesn’t make for good reading in front of a family audience.

Burgers

Oven bottom muffins make for good alternative burger buns. Which means you could have your muffins sharing the same grill pan as your burgers. If you go to your favourite totalitarian burger joint, you will find that burger buns are lightly toasted anyway.

As with sausage, never skimp on the meat content of burgers. Once again, this is where your friendly butcher (or superstore’s butchery counter) comes to your rescue.

Soup

If your sliced loaf is getting a tad stale, why not dip it in soup? A few minutes in the toaster and your favourite soup makes for a good light lunch.

Canned fish

Tinned fish of any variety is a perfect partner with toast. From past experience, I have found that sardines in tomato sauce goes well with brown bread. One other thing: please refrain from using margarine on your sardines and toast. Butter works better in the taste department.

Mince

You may laugh at this suggestion due to comments by The Observer’s food critic Jay Rayner. On the Eater blog, their critic thought of Mincemeat on Toast as a traditional British dish. This led to a Twitter storm as the dish originated in New Zealand.

In July 2017 I thought Mince on Toast was an extravagance. Mince always goes well in chilli con carne, and on a jacket potato instead of toast. Also in curry (as Keema), Lasagne, and as savoury mince in a large Yorkshire Pudding. Then again Spaghetti Bolognese on toast (without the pasta) isn’t too bad a light lunch option. Heinz do a canned Spaghetti Bolognese. On a similar note, they also do…

Ravioli

Another fine mince on toast based option. This is best enjoyed on white bread and, like baked beans, you cannot afford to skimp on the brands.

Eggs

Eggs of any description works well on toast. Fried eggs work very well, especially with a bit of cheese underneath. Poached eggs, similar so. None of them can beat a fluffy scrambled egg, especially on brown toast. Toasted soldiers can be pretty good with a boiled egg.

Burnt or pale: how do you like your toast?

I have no love for ‘well done toast’ nor ‘warm bread toast’. Toast has to be mid brown, almost a sandy brown instead of burnt to a crisp.

The incorrect use of toast:

  • Cold Toast: food wise, there is nothing worse than cold toast. Toast is best enjoyed seconds after leaving the grill or toaster;
  • Proprietary sandwich fillers: kindly refrain from using the aforementioned foodstuff. They will never beat Heinz’s Toast Toppers (which have been discontinued for some time);
  • Conveyor Belt Toasters: the spawn of Satan. If there was one kitchen product that should have come from Mordor, this is it. Which is why I’ve never seen them in Currys but in the standard class dining room of The Grand Hotel in Scarborough. They are fearsome, and the toast was too much like warm bread.

How do you eat yours?

The way we enjoy toast is a personal issue. Do you swear by well done toast? Do you like your crumpets crispy? Is mincemeat on toast – instead of baked beans on toast – your definitive comfort food? We would love to hear your comments.

S.V., 22 February 2018.

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