Sunday, 27 November 2011

On toast sandwiches

The Royal Society of Chemistry has got a lot of publicity for its 'toast sandwich' recipe, inspired by Mrs Beeton and apparently costing 7.5 pence (which surely depends upon cheap bread and cheaper electricity). However, in emphasising its simplicity, the RSC are failing to heed Mrs Beeton's stern and substantial advice on the subject of toast.

Indeed, as well as her recipe for toast sandwiches ('tempting to the appetite of an invalid') and toast-and-water (a hot drink), Beeton offers separate recipes for dry toast and hot buttered toast. In the spirit of these frugal times, here are the instructions for making dry toast:
To make dry toast properly, a great deal of attention is required; much more, indeed, than people generally suppose. Never use new bread for making any kind of toast, as it eats heavy, and, besides, is very extravagant. Procure a loaf of household bread about two days old; cut off as many slices as may be required, not quite 1/4 inch in thickness; trim off the crusts and ragged edges, put the bread on a toasting fork, and hold it before a very clear fire. Move it backwards and forwards until the bread is nicely coloured; then turn it and toast the other side, and do not place it so near the fire that it blackens. Dry toast should be more gradually made than buttered toast, as its great beauty consists in its crispness, and this cannot be attained unless the process is slow and the bread is allowed gradually to colour. It should never be made long before it is wanted, as it soon becomes tough, unless placed on the fender in front of the fire. As soon as each piece is ready, it should be put into a rack, or stood upon its edges, and sent quickly to table.

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