Fancy, trendy, artisanal, hipster, ridiculous… However you want to describe it, toast is quickly becoming the food trend of the year in Canada.
A small cafe in San Francisco, Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club, is credited with starting the initial ripple of this North American culinary wave, offering good quality bread, toasted and topped with butter and cinnamon. (The story behind the cafe’s owner, Giulietta Carrelli, was documented on the popular podcast, This American Life, and well-worth the listen.)
Now all across Canada you can find similar offerings. Independent cafes like Vancouver’s Matchstick Coffee Roasters and Monogram Coffee in Calgary are baking their own breads or partnering with neighbourhood bakeries, slicing the loaves and keeping things basic with butters and preserves or taking it a step further and piling ingredients on top.
I don’t think anyone truly knows why this love of toast has spread so steadily, but it just might have something to do with the fact that it’s one of the first comfort foods most of us can remember. And now we’ve embraced this first food love and transformed it into a grown-up dish.
Here’s how it’s done:
You may have already guessed it, but heading to an amazing local bakery in your city is a great way to begin. Sourdough, focaccia, ciabatta, rye, whole grain, hell, even plain white bread that’s locally made is a beautiful thing. All of these different loaves offer different textures (inside and out) and flavours that can go with any toppings.
Even the best piece of bread needs a little somethin’ somethin’ on it to be truly enjoyed. A delectable spread helps lay the groundwork for just about any of the toppings that your heart desires. Aside from the standard butter, here are some ideas for a good base.
For savoury: garlic aioli, grainy mustard, olive tapenades, Greek yogurt, pesto.
For sweet: cream cheese, labneh, preserves, marzipan, nutella, tahini.
The sky is the limit here, but like any dish you are assembling at home, it’s always good to strive for a balance of flavours and textures. Toast can be an open-faced affair too, so grab some colourful ingredients and make things pop. Here are a few ways to do it:
-Rye with grainy mustard, shaved radishes, shaved fennel, shaved cucumber and crushed almonds
-White bread with garlic aioli, iceberg lettuce, roasted prawns
-Sourdough with labneh, roasted hazelnuts and honey
Or try my personal favourite…
Ciabatta with Sautéed Apples, Bacon and Salted Caramel Recipe
Serves 4 to 5
Total Time: 25 minutes
2 teaspoons canola oil
5 bacon strips (thinly sliced)
1 loaf ciabatta (sliced into 8-10 pieces, approximately 1” thick)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon creamed honey
2 teaspoons Asian five spice powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Spartan apples (cored, halved and thinly sliced)
Greek yogurt (enough to spread on toast)
½ cup salted caramel sauce (try this easy recipe from Anna Olson here: http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipe/whole-apple-tart-with-salted-caramel-sauce/10875/)
1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
2. Heat oil in a medium pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chopped bacon and cook until very crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and transfer bacon onto paper towel to absorb any excess grease.
4. Place ciabatta slices onto a large baking sheet. Once the remaining bacon fat in the pan has cooled slightly, brush onto the top of each slice of bread and let bake in the oven until they become crispy and begin to brown slightly, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Next, heat butter in a large pan on medium-high heat. Once melted, add honey and spices and stir until well-combined. Add in apple slices and cook until tender, stirring regularly, about 6-8 minutes. Keep warm on stove until ready to assemble.
6. Place warm toast on a platter, spread Greek yogurt liberally on each slice, followed by a spoonful of the apple mixture and crispy bacon. Finish with generous drizzles of the salted caramel sauce.
Note: The sautéed apple and bacon combination makes for a great pie or tart filling too!
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.