Tips for the ultimate toastie

I can eat the same breakfast for months on end and not get sick of it. My whole life, I’ve been through phases where I’d pick a meal for breakfast and eat it day in day out until something new won me over. When I was a teenager, this was a ham, cheese and pineapple toasted sandwich.

I religiously prepared it the same way each time. I’d heat up Mum’s small cast iron pan, butter the outsides of soft grainy bread, place one piece in the pan, cover it in a layer of sliced cheese, squeeze the juice out of a handful of crushed pineapple, then place this atop the cheese, top this with 2–3 slices of ham and finish it with the final piece of bread. By the time I had done this, the bottom piece of bread was turning golden, the cheese was melting, and I would flip it over to cook the other side.

Toasted sandwiches are universally loved comfort food. What makes a great toastie though? Is it the way its cooked, the bread, the fillings? Turns out it’s all of the above! The Nourish community shared their tips to make the ultimate toastie.

The bread
Sourdough has dominated bread trends for years, and this was only reinforced thanks to Covid lockdowns. In the toastie world, it has a reputation for being extra crunchy and not getting soggy. Miel from Meyer Cheese, the Bikery’s Jana, and La Cave’s Brigid all use sourdough as their go-to toastie bread. I’d have to disagree. I find if sourdough is cut too thick, the filling is cold by the time you’ve chewed through your first bite. In saying this, if sourdough is cut thinly, it can be a great option.

Adele from But First Desserts uses Freya’s Mixed Grain bread. If you aren’t familiar with this, it’s a soft, thick cut bread and I’m in total agreeance with her. What I love about a thick cut grainy bread is that it’s a solid vessel, the grains add extra flavour and crunch, it doesn’t break your jaw when you bite into it, but it still crisps up beautifully. If Wayne Good isn’t using a ciabatta, he will use Molenberg, which is thinner than Freya’s but equally as tasty.

Toastie bread isn’t limited to a sliced loaf though. Specialty bread like a panini, croissant, Turkish pide or focaccia can make the perfect base! Keep in mind that they might be thicker, so cook them lower and slower so the filling is piping hot.

The fillings
After talking to the Nourish family, one thing was evident: A great toastie comes down to quality cheese. The cheese expert himself, Miel, says, “The ultimate toastie comes down to good bread and great cheese [his favourite being Meyer Garlic & Chives] and from there, the sky is the limit.” Miel recommends mixing 2–3 cheese types for flavour and texture. Use a blend of a melting cheese like mozzarella and a gouda which brings the sharp flavour.

Brie cheese also melts to perfection. Jana loves to pair this with Parma ham and caramelised onion. If Brigid is going all out, she will make a croque monsieur with ham, mustard and bechamel sauce, but she’s equally as happy with a plain cheese toastie. She always serves her toasties with a side of cornichons or relish to add a little sharpness.

Wayne’s non-negotiable filling is a good chutney. His go-to is bacon, cheese, onion and chutney – I think I might invite myself over to his house for lunch! He also tells me, when it comes to fillings, “I don’t like this thing of a toastie having limp soggy greens”, and I couldn’t agree more. Toasties are comfort food for a reason.

Adele fills her toasties with tomato paste, diced onion and LOTS of cheese. While I haven’t tried tomato paste on a toastie myself, I can imagine it would bring the tomato flavour I love, without having to bite through soggy half-cooked tomato.

As for myself, I’ve already confessed that I’m a pineapple in a toastie (and on pizza) girl, which is always going to be controversial. At the end of the day though, a ham and cheese (or versions of) never fail to satisfy.

The cooking method
Spreading butter on the outside of the toastie bread was unanimous amongst the Nourish community. It helps the bread crisp up, colour and adds a little saltiness. If you have it, cook the toastie in ghee instead, as it has a higher smoke point and gives it an unbeatable, crispy golden crust. Another alternative to butter is spreading the bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Since mayo is made of oil and egg yolks, it colours beautifully without burning.

A toasted sandwich press is a no-fail option although it can squish your toastie if you press down too enthusiastically. Adele has a fancy sandwich press which makes the perfect toastie, whereas I have one that is practically useless and I’m not sure why I let it take up room in my cupboard.

Wayne cooks his toasties in a large heavy bottom pan on the hob. He says the longer, slower cooking is the way to go as it ensures the filling is hot without burning the bread. Brigid agrees with Wayne, but she’s been making a few toasties in the air fryer too, so give it a go if you have one.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to press vs pan, but the key is to control the heat so the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

After hearing everyone’s toastie quirks, my key takeaways are to use a quality bread (whether you’re team sourdough or soft bread), a mix of flavoursome and melting cheeses and to stick to 2–4 fillings. At the end of the day, a toastie should be a quick, comforting fix.

Words Harriet Boucher Image Ashlee DeCaires

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Vicki Ravlich-Horan

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