Delightfully Crisp Updates!
Lately, I've been obsessed with bread. Just... bread - the soft, fluffy loaf of carbohydrates pocketed with holes, bundled up in it's own crusty wrapping which is powdered with flour (though not as much as that on my mamma's face...shhh!). There's something present in bread which just intrigues me so much, the qualities, the characteristics of bread.
Bread is like a multi-racial, multi-cultural society. Ciabatta, an airy loaf, relatively dry and crusty. Whole-wheat, found to possess a more earthy flavour and dense texture than it's 'purer' cousin, white. But most dense of them all is rye, solid, dense, and a deep shade of brown. Some are of the origins of sourdough, making use of a natural starter, whereas others utilize yeast to be leavened. And yet, all of them are bread - characterized by the unity of crumb and crust.
And here's the 'dry' part of what I've brought to the table today. Bread is one of humanity's oldest staples, and one which 'has appeared since the dawn of agriculture' (according to Wikipedia). There's a melange of methods to make bread - steaming, frying, baking - as well as an entire list of the various ratios of ingredients, longer than Rapunzel's hair, I suppose. Some breads are leavened (sourdough), other's not. There's different means to consume bread too, as a wrap, toast, bread pudding, the list just cascades down. And yet, all of them are bread - the simple combination of water and flour, with yeast being kneaded in occasionally.
And what makes bread exceptionally appealing to me is not more than appearance, after all, don't judge a loaf by it's crust (though one can tell whether it's good or not with it). It's the fragrance. The lovely scent of sweet air which wafts out from the little holes dotted within, finding its way to one's nose as it takes its time, like how it was born. It's magical, really, how two simple ingredients can combine to form this ever-so-complex thing, this solid yet soft pillow of bread, where no two are alike.
There's something exceptionally delightful about that essence which breads emits. It's sweet, light and fragrant - something one wouldn't expect from a fermented product. One of the greatest joys of life, I think, would be pulling apart a loaf of just-baked bread and inhaling the warm air which whooshes out in a gust. It sort of swarms the face, and coats the skin in a layer of steam which make the delicate hairs tingle in response.
Another aspect of bread would be the texture - rough and having an assortment of spaces within, to form a beautiful, complex design where the eye is too absorbed to just absorb everything at once. It's overwhelming, really, and I find this to be one of the loveliest characteristics of bread. I love just feeling the bread, like paper beneath my fingers, the rough, yet fluffy texture which bounces back after being pushed. I feel bread like a blind man gropes at something foreign, for I never know what exact sort of crumb to find beneath the browned surface of crust.
What the fingers feel, the tongue feels as well. The dough, after being pried (albeit unwillingly) from the loaf, slowly enters the mouth by the fingers. It's slowly savoured, every bite chewed with careful reflection of the tastes experienced, the flavours sampled, and most noticeably, the textures encountered. Some breads are rough, others softer, more pliable and doughy (which sometimes stick to teeth and the roof of the mouth).
But it the end, it fills you up. Be it in the form of a sandwich, pita, pizza or slathered with jam and peanut butter, bread satisfies the stomach and the soul.
I've opted for a sandwich this morning, not a run-off-the-mill lettuce + tomato + ham sandwich, but one with divine taste and texture. I had something sweet, something savoury, and something incredibly and utterly divine. When baked, cheese curds up and solidifies, yet maintains its original flavour. It allows itself to give way slowly, to crumble and dissolve within the mouth. But this isn't made complete without blueberries and blackberries, berries which emit tart bursts of juice as they spring apart at the touch of a knife, after the juices, once sour or mildly sweet, become amplified and dance upon thy tastebuds.
And all these, packed into bread, already overwhelming bread, which has been soaked (and fused with) egg, crisp, chewy, fresh ; and later broiled to crispiness and crunches in the mouth, yet doesn't separate with the cheese which binds. Downed with maple syrup, a magically sticky substance which just blends everything together like summer smoothies.
Bruleed Cheesy Berry French Toast
2 slices bread (I used some from a wholegrain loaf from Cedele)
3 tbsp. soft cheese (see below for notes)
3 + 2 tbsp. milk (soy)
1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp maple syrup / honey / other sweetener
A large handful (approx. 1/3 c) berries (I used blueberries and blackberries)
1. Preheat oven to broil. Whisk together egg, 3 tbsp. milk, salt, and 1 tbsp. maple syrup until a light yellow mix is formed.
2. Press bread into mixture gently, leaving to soak on each side for a minute or two.
3. Transfer to a greased / non-stick pan and cook on med heat for 3-4 mins on each side, until yellowed and lightly crisped.
4. Meanwhile, combine cheese, remaining milk, and 1 tsp maple syrup until smooth. Mix in berries.
5. Place one slice of french toast on a greased baking dish, spoon on berry-cream mixture, and top with other slice of french toast.
6. If you wish, sprinkle on a little sugar before broiling in the oven for 3-4 mins until lightly browned.
7. Serve, and pour on some maple syrup before devouring, if you wish. Enjoy.
Notes : for cheese, use 'soft', pasty cheeses such as cream cheese or cottage cheese. Other softer, pale cheeses will work too. For this, I used 1 tbsp. cottage cheese, 1 wedge laughing cow cream cheese, and 1 tbsp. greek yogurt, as I ran out of cheese.