Tips on Toast

Before you slather on the jam or smash on an avocado, you need to start with a good crusty foundation. Raquel Pelzel, author of Toast: The Cookbook, shares her tricks for the perfect slice.

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Photo By: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

The Greatest Thing Since …

The newest thing in bread? Old-fashioned, handmade loaves springing up in bakeries across the country. Whether you favor a Pullman or a boule, a ciabatta or a baguette, these hints will help you make the most of your good fortune. Raquel Pelzel, author of Toast: The Cookbook, shares her best tips.

Photography by Heather Ramsdell

Think Before You Cut

To avoid squashing your bread, a serrated knife is best for slicing. Pelzel prefers pieces on the wider side, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. With a large round or oblong loaf, Pelzel often makes her first slice in the middle, at the thickest part, so she can use the good stuff when it's freshest. "I’d rather have the ends left over than the nice middle," she says. She stands a long, low loaf like ciabatta on its side before cutting, to avoid winding up with flattened, biscotti-like pieces.

Go Long

A crusty loaf like a pugliese or baguette has lots of air holes, which make it delightful for snacking but a challenge when you're building a sandwich. Rather than trying to spread mayo on slices that resemble Swiss cheese, Pelzel cuts her loaf horizontally, as if making a large Italian hero. This way, everything is held in by the outside crusts.

Butter First

"I like to toast bread with butter on it," says Pelzel. "That way it gets all melted and into all the holes." (Avoid this method when using a toaster or you'll risk starting a fire.)

Beyond the Toaster

There are many ways other than using an electric appliance to toast your bread. Grilling and broiling gives you a nice cooked exterior, plus a tasty hint of char. Pan-frying in a skillet using butter or oil produces a lovely even finish. For the last, Pelzel suggests pressing down on the bread with a spatula or heavy plate to make sure the entire surface is in contact with the pan, "or you'll have divots and valleys."