Artisanal Toast

 

James Lileks is always mocking places like Portland for being full of SWPL affections like “artisanal toast”. I always thought this was just another example of James’s hilarious trademark hyperbole.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the NY Times Dining section today to find a story on just that. The story asks “How do you get this perfect toast?” and includes a recipe. (If you need a recipe for toast, the Times food section is probably a little advanced for you.):

There may be more pressing issues in the food world, or more ambitious projects to tackle, but I am here to talk about perfecting the simplest of kitchen basics.

Toast.

A good piece of toast, whether smeared with butter or draped with prosciutto, is a many splendored thing. Attention must be paid. While a badly toasted slice won’t necessarily ruin your day, it won’t brighten it, either. Ideally, it should.

Of course, just how the toast should be is really a matter of personal preference. The ideal, if I may generalize, is this: the perfect color (golden), the perfect texture (it should have a little “give” in the center) and the perfect temperature (hot).

How do you get this perfect toast?

It’s the little details that matter. You must take charge of it while it cooks, and nurse it along. In all toasting, not just the toasting of bread, you want to achieve color gradually. Leave it too long on the fire and the moment is lost.

Different breads need different kinds of toasting. Tender, buttery brioche can’t take high heat; denser, moister whole-grain breads can. Challah, ciabatta, semolina bread, baguettes split lengthwise, pain de campagne — all make fine toast (actually, day-old bread makes the best toast), given proper attention. And when the toast is burned, just start over; scraping the black stuff off the top makes a horrid sound, and it never fools anyone, anyway.

 

I am apparently not up on the latest culinary trends because this is actually a thing. A piece from earlier this year asked “How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze?” and just this week NPR ran a piece entitled “We Didn’t Believe In ‘Artisanal’ Toast, Until We Made Our Own“.

Now that artisanal toast is entering the mainstream, James is going to have to try harder to mock bobo absurdity. Maybe curated quinoa or sushi for dogs (though I hesitate to Google these, lest they actually exist).

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  1. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I generally make fun of  this sort of thing, but since I began making my own crusty European bread (I posted the recipe here recently) I have rediscovered toast.  It is what they describe.  Too bad I’m trying to eat low carb.  But here’s another take on it–toast really is one of life’s simple pleasures, much as it can be gussied up by a loving description.

    BTW–that toast in the photo–that is not artisanal toast.  That is toasted Wonder Bread.

    And I do not live in Portland.

    • #1
  2. user_537146 Inactive
    user_537146
    @PatrickLasswell

    People choose to live in Portland. All assertions about the frivolity of our concerns as Portlanders  run aground on the rock of choice that underlies our existence. People should be wealthy and free enough to be able to concern themselves with artisanal toast. 

    If you disagree with that basic assertion, fine.  Stay where you are; continue screwing up the community you reside in with your insistence on drudgery, incompetence, and tedium. Just leave us alone to make the best beer, spirits, teas, coffees, toast and lives we can. We may be silly, but by God we are free.

    • #2
  3. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    I take my toast from a bare hint of toasting to nearly burnt.  Put enough butter and jam on it, and it tastes great.

    • #3
  4. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Patrick Lasswell:

    People choose to live in Portland. All assertions about the frivolity of our concerns as Portlanders run aground on the rock of choice that underlies our existence. People should be wealthy and free enough to be able to concern themselves with artisanal toast.

    If you disagree with that basic assertion, fine. Stay where you are; continue screwing up the community you reside in with your insistence on drudgery, incompetence, and tedium. Just leave us alone to make the best beer, spirits, teas, coffees, toast and lives we can. We may be silly, but by God we are free.

    I had a Portland-based customer for the better part of a year and very much enjoyed the city. If there’s anything to mock about Portland and Oregon it’s the politics. 

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I often breakfast on toast.  I get bread from the deli section at Kroger (whole clove, Moroccan olive, or Cibartti usually), toast it, butter it, and sprinkle garlic powder, smoked ground black pepper, and salt (potassium salt, to reduce sodium) over the pieces.

    It’s delicious, but an 8-year-old could do it.  And you can do it in your sleep (considering I get up at 4:30 am to get to work, I often do).  Anyone making a fuss over this really has too much time on their hands.  Way too much.  Either that or a life unchallenged by reality.

    Must be a left-coast/right-coast thing.

    Seawriter

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    • #6
  7. user_537146 Inactive
    user_537146
    @PatrickLasswell

    Fricosis Guy:

    I had a Portland-based customer for the better part of a year and very much enjoyed the city. If there’s anything to mock about Portland and Oregon it’s the politics.

     Exactly, kvetching about the toast steals time and energy from th vital work of mocking the political  idiots who think they are what makes Portland great. 

    • #7
  8. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    It kind of silly, and I would get artisinal toast at least once just because.

    There is joy in the simple things, done well.

    • #8
  9. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat … artisanal toast.”

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Guruforhire:

    It kind of silly, and I would get artisinal toast at least once just because.

    There is joy in the simple things, done well.

    Simply get a good loaf of bread and toast it well.

    I find it ridiculous that “artisanal” has been turned into a synonym for “good”.

    Just because a product was created by an “artisan” doesn’t make it good, and just because a product is good doesn’t mean it was created by an “artisan”.

    Unless each piece of toast is done individually over an open flame from a loaf of bread that the toastmaker personally baked from scratch, I don’t see how it can claim to be “artisanal” in the first place.

    • #10
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Misthiocracy: Unless each piece of toast is done individually over an open flame from a loaf of bread that the toastmaker personally baked from scratch, I don’t see how it can claim to be “artisanal” in the first place.

     Well . . .  if standards of excellence are lowered sufficiently anything can be awarded a superlative label.   What were the lines from The Incredibles?

         Everyone’s special, Dash.
         Which is another way of saying no one is.

    • #11
  12. Deacon Blues Inactive
    Deacon Blues
    @DeaconBlues

    Anyone else have a problem with this bit?

    While a badly toasted slice won’t necessarily ruin your day, it won’t brighten it, either. Ideally, it should.

    A badly toasted slice should brighten your day? The Grey Lady’s slip is showing.

    • #12
  13. jameslileks Contributor
    jameslileks
    @jameslileks

    Patrick Lasswell: If you disagree with that basic assertion, fine.  Stay where you are; continue screwing up the community you reside in with your insistence on drudgery, incompetence, and tedium. Just leave us alone to make the best beer, spirits, teas, coffees, toast and lives we can. We may be silly, but by God we are free.

     It wasn’t aspiration for quality I was mocking, it was the pretentiousness of  it all. The opposite of 6$ toast with drizzled agave and hand-churned butter is not incompetence or tedium. 

    • #13
  14. user_1152 Member
    user_1152
    @DonTillman

    I was under the impression that Artisanal Toast started in San Francisco, for all the obvious reasons.

    http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/toast-story-latest-artisanal-food-craze-72676/

    • #14
  15. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    James Lileks: The opposite of 6$ toast with drizzled agave and hand-churned butter is not incompetence or tedium. 

     Well.  It’s obvious you live in flyover country.  You simply lack an appreciation of what makes The Special People special.

    (Come to think, so do I.)

    • #15
  16. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    James Lileks:

    Patrick Lasswell: If you disagree with that basic assertion, fine. Stay where you are; continue screwing up the community you reside in with your insistence on drudgery, incompetence, and tedium. Just leave us alone to make the best beer, spirits, teas, coffees, toast and lives we can. We may be silly, but by God we are free.

    It wasn’t aspiration for quality I was mocking, it was the pretentiousness of it all. The opposite of 6$ toast with drizzled agave and hand-churned butter is not incompetence or tedium.

    The problem is, I turned my nose up at such things because of the pretentious verbiage, only to find later that well … some of this stuff is good. Again, let’s mock Portland’s ridiculous and disastrous politics. You’ll get my artisanal toast drizzled with hand-churned butter and local honey made from bees that are given daily massages from my cold, dead, but well-fed hands.

    • #16
  17. user_49770 Inactive
    user_49770
    @wilberforge

    Would have to agree Portland’s obsession with food is a distraction from politics. Left the place some years ago.

    Grandma would make toast for we kids. When the toaster smoked it was ready to scrape the burnt part away and eat. Pretty much crumbled in the process.

    The article seems to suggest some social status to choice of toast. But if all you can afford is toast, it means something.

    • #17
  18. user_1152 Member
    user_1152
    @DonTillman

    New York, however, is surely responsible for Artisanal Pencil Sharpening:

    http://www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com

    • #18
  19. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle
    @SusaninSeattle

    In our house, toast is pretty much just a butter delivery system.

    • #19
  20. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Patrick Lasswell:

    If you disagree with that basic assertion, fine. Stay where you are; continue screwing up the community you reside in with your insistence on drudgery, incompetence, and tedium. Just leave us alone to make the best beer, spirits, teas, coffees, toast and lives we can. We may be silly, but by God we are free.

    The city of Portland, OR will empty a 38-million gallon reservoir after a teenager allegedly urinated in it, according to the Associated Press. It’s the second time in three years that Portland is flushing its Mount Tabor reservoir after a urine-related incident.

    The reservoir is open-air and sits exposed to all of nature, leading many parties to question how necessary a draining would be, or how polluted 38 million gallons of water can really be by a single man’s urine…The reservoir will reportedly cost $36,000 to clean and had just had one of its twice-yearly cleanings three weeks ago.

    You’re odd ducks. If a community of drudgery and tedium is the alternative I’ll take it.

    • #20
  21. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Roberto:

    You’re odd ducks. If a community of drudgery and tedium is the alternative I’ll take it.

     Only about 40% here are Ducks. The other 40% are Beavers, with a remaining 20% wondering just what’s wrong with the other 80%.

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    C. U. Douglas:

    The problem is, I turned my nose up at such things because of the pretentious verbiage, only to find later that well … some of this stuff is good. Again, let’s mock Portland’s ridiculous and disastrous politics. You’ll get my artisanal toast drizzled with hand-churned butter and local honey made from bees that are given daily massages from my cold, dead, but well-fed hands.

    I have no problem with good, handmade food made from quality ingredients. My problem is with this whole “artisanal” branding gimmick.Look, every summer I go to my cabin up in the hills and get really amazing breads and pastries from the local independent bakery, and vegetables from the local farmer’s market. It’s great stuff. If they start to double the price by slapping the “artisanal” label on everything, I’ll be pretty cheesed off.

    • #22
  23. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan in Seattle:

    In our house, toast is pretty much just a butter delivery system.

    Yabbut, is it artisanal butter?

    • #23
  24. user_138106 Member
    user_138106
    @LidensCheng

    Here’s another obnoxious one, $4 a slice, hipster toast.
    http://www.bonappetit.com/restaurants-travel/article/how-to-make-perfect-toast

    • #24
  25. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    • #25
  26. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    Toast is simple, and need not consume so many words and fire such snark, humor, pity and assorted emotional outbursts.  The salient factor is the toasting mechanism, and the ONLY toaster is a Breville.  With a tad of experience, you’ll discover the correct setting for a variety of breads and then it replicates perfection forever.

    We moved 20 miles south of Portland to escape its weirdness, taxes, and nasty air shed.  I needn’t hover over my toaster as I breathe ocean-fresh air. 

    Done.

    • #26
  27. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Riehl: The salient factor is the toasting mechanism, and the ONLY toaster is a Breville.

    Oh, I disagree.

    This is the only toaster for the true artisan:

    • #27
  28. user_49770 Inactive
    user_49770
    @wilberforge

    As a sidebar, if anyone has visited Portland, the charming old fashioned wáter retention facilities are a last resort thing and are unused.

    Most of these facilities simply add to the local charm. A few years ago in order to avoid contamination the city proposed and purchased covers for the resivours. After public outcry the project was stopped and the already taxpayer funded covers were sold for scrap.

    An absurd notion from the start. So – The Portland wáter bureau dumped some 36 million gallons because one guy peed in the pool ?

    Think about that the next time you choose to swim in any public pool with kids around.

    • #28
  29. user_537146 Inactive
    user_537146
    @PatrickLasswell

    James Lileks:

    It wasn’t aspiration for quality I was mocking, it was the pretentiousness of it all. The opposite of 6$ toast with drizzled agave and hand-churned butter is not incompetence or tedium.

    So emanations of pretentiousness that I have to deal with at stone’s throw range are affecting your calm a thousand miles and more away. To quote the Bard Malkin: “Boo-fricken-hoo”.  Grow some hide and endure. It should be warm enough there soon to throw some brats on the grill. If that doesn’t help you get past the pain more drastic measures might suffice: http://www.drinklucid.com/product-information/ 

    Warning: watching video of the founder of Lucid will drive you right round the twist…but he makes a fine tipple. I’ve publicly sworn willingness to chew my own arm off to escape if trapped with him more than two hours, but his relentless focus changed the law in the US.

    • #29
  30. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    Sure!  I have two, in case the cord breaks on one.

    • #30
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