You can tut-tut all you want about the toast trend. (Yes, it’s really a trend. Yes, there are restaurants here that feature toast. Yes, the word “artisanal” comes up.)
But be honest: You know when you’ve encountered a really great piece of toast, and when you bite into a slice that’s just ordinary.
We’re talking about toast that doesn’t scour the roof of your mouth, nor collapse under the vague pressure of a jammy knife.
We’re talking about a proportion of tiny crannies that, in the words of an 1805 book, “Receipts in Modern Cookery,” enable the toast to “imbibe the butter with more freedom.”
The right toast, of course, starts with the right bread. Some loaves, while delicious, don’t make notable toast. But a bread that makes great toast also should be delicious in its unsinged state.
Potato bread hits each mark, with each bite somehow tender and substantial. Plus, adding mashed potato to bread dough boosts its nutritional profile. Potatoes provide fiber comparable to whole-wheat bread, along with zinc, iron and a healthy jolt of potassium, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Still, let’s be honest: Toast also is a carbo-raft upon which all sorts of toppings find refuge. And not just butter and jelly. Mashed avocado on toast is a revelation (and a trend). A study last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that avocados help reduce LDL cholesterol — the bad kind — even more than low-fat diets.
But back to potato bread. In addition to the mashed potato, this recipe uses the starch-rich water in which the potato cooks (so don’t absent-mindedly pour it down the drain). The result is a crumb that when toasted renders a tender chewy interior within the crisp filigree of the exterior.
Speaking of the toaster’s action, here’s one more reason to embrace toast: There’s a local connection.
Charles P. Strite was working in a manufacturing plant in Stillwater during World War I when, as the story is told, he became frustrated with the burned toast served in the cafeteria because of the kitchen crew’s inattention. He set about finding a toasting process that didn’t depend on humans watching the bread.
On Oct. 18, 1921, he got a patent for the first pop-up toaster with a variable timer that browned both sides of the bread at once.
Finally — and we cannot top this so it really is the conclusion — consider Dom Lane, a food consultant who in 2011 worked for Vogel, a beloved bakery in the United Kingdom.
Lane tested (and toasted) 2,000 slices of bread. He found that the perfect toast is a slice of bread at the optimum thickness of 14 millimeters, toasted with the dial on a 900-watt toaster set to the fifth heat setting out of six, for exactly 216 seconds. This results in an outside of the bread 12 times crunchier than the inside, considered the “‘ultimate balance of external crunch and internal softness.”
So we are not alone in perhaps overthinking this toast trend. But guilty as charged, and loving every bite.