Posted by on Mar 6, 2015 in Everybody Loves…, Quickies | 0 comments

Here’s how to make toast like my father used to: Take two pieces of white bread, put them in the toaster and press down the thingie on the side. I don’t remember if there was a darkness control on the side of our old toaster, but if there was, it was set to somewhere around 5,000. Walk away from the toaster and get involved in something else. When billows of smoke started pouring out of the toaster, pop up the thingie and remove the toast. Stand over the garbage and scrape off all the black bits while crying “ow, ow, ow, ow”. Hold up the resulting shard of leopard print-looking bread and say, “Now, that’s toast.”

I was reminded of this the other day when I was watching someone on TV toasting pine nuts in a pan on the stove. You can’t toast pine nuts in a pan. Some parts will be nice and golden brown, some burnt to a crisp and the rest will escape completely unscathed. Toast pine nuts, and all other nuts for that matter, on a baking sheet in the oven. Here’s how: Set the oven to 350º F for large/oilier nuts, like whole almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts or 375º F for smaller/less oily nuts like pine nuts, slivered almonds or pecans. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and toast them for anywhere from 12 minutes (pine nuts) to 16 (whole almonds/hazelnuts). Shake the pan once or twice while the nuts are toasting so they toast evenly.

The idea behind toasting nuts (or spices or bread, or anything) is to change and deepen the flavor. It makes sense that the deeper the toastiness penetrates, the better the flavor will be. That’s another reasons why you can’t really toast nuts of any kind in a pan on top of the stove- they’ll brown on the outside before toasting all the way through. Lower heat and slower cooking, like the baking sheet method above, is the way to go. Bite into a whole almond that’s been slow toasted and you’ll see what I mean. The flavor is deeper and the color is even all the way to the center.

Back to the bread kind of toast. Toast is cheap and easy to make. Any 19 dollar toaster will do. You could splurge on one of those English Dualits, which run somewhere around 200 bucks, but toasting bread in a Dualit is like driving to the grocery store in a Hummer to pick up a quart of milk. A little bit of overkill, unless your grocery store happens to be in Anbar province. Now that I think about it, all toast is good. White bread toast with butter and sugar, slices of pumpernickel toast with curried tuna salad in between, raisin toast with peanut butter and all the other toasts out there. In my ongoing and fairly successful attempt to eat better, I always stock Alvarado Street Bakery bread, usually Sprouted Wheat Multi-Grain or Sprouted Rye . They are delicious toasted, which is good because I can’t choke them down untoasted. The sprouted wheat is delicious toasted and topped with a fried egg or in a great grilled cheese sandwich filled with sliced brie and grilled in a heavy pan with butter, both of which completely erase any healthful benefits of the bread, but there you have it. Joe toasts it, douses it with olive oil and sprinkles it with coarse sea salt. Wonderful.

Last, try this method of toasting croutons. Cut day old, good, dense textured bread into smallish cubes. Drizzle some decent olive oil around the inside of a bowl, add the cubes and toss to lightly coat the bread. if you think the bread needs a little more oil, scoop the cubes to one side of the bowl, drizzle oil on the other side and toss again. The idea is to coat all the bread evenly and not douse some and leave others dry, like you would if you just poured oil over the cubes. Sprinkle grated parmesan or romano cheese over the bread if you like or season it with salt and pepper. Spread out the cubes on a baking sheet and toast them—slowly—until they are golden brown and crisp all the way through.