Today I give you an extract another of Alexis Soyer’s letters to his fictional correspondents. His letter to ‘Eloise’ of January 3, 1849 is on the topic of breakfast dishes. Naturally it includes recipes.
Who would have thought that the instructions for making toast would require one and a half pages of text?
The editor of the book prefaces the recipe with the following words of justification:
“Perhaps some housekeepers may laugh at the presumption of M. Soyer in attempting to give a formal receipt for so trifling a matter as making a piece of toast. But, in Cookery, there are no trifles.Every preparation of food, however simple, requires thought, care, and experience. Among the unpleasantnesses of our breakfast-tables, there are none more common than poor toast.”
TOAST.—Procure a nice square loaf that has been baked one or two days previously, (for the new cannot be cut, and would eat very heavy,) then with a sharp knife cut off the bottom crust evenly, and then as many slices as you require, about a quarter of an inch in thickness, (I generally use a carving-knife for cutting bread for toast; being longer in the blade it is more handy, and less liable to waste it.) Contrive to have a clear fire: place a slice of the bread upon a toasting-fork, about an inch from one of the sides, hold it a minute before the fire, then turn it, hold it before the fire another minute, by which time the bread will be thoroughly hot, then begin to move it gradually to and fro until the whole surface has assumed a yellowish-brown colour, then turn it again, toasting the other side in the same manner; lay it then upon a hot plate, have some fresh or salt butter, (which must not be too hard, as pressing it upon the toast would make it heavy,) spread a piece, rather less than an ounce, over, and cut the toast into four or six pieces; should you require six such slices for a numerous family, about a quarter of a pound of butter would suffice for the whole; but cut each slice into pieces as soon as buttered, and pile them lightly upon the plate or dish you intend to serve it on.
You will find this way a great improvement upon the old system, as often in cutting through four or five slices with a bad knife, you squeeze all the butter out of the upper one, and discover the under one, at the peril of its life, swimming in an ocean of butter at the bottom of the dish.
N.B. The warming of the bread gradually through, on both sides, is a very great improvement upon the quality of the toast; it may give a trifle more trouble, but still it is quicker done, and much lighter.
All kinds of toast must be done the same way, but if to be served under a bird, eggs, or kidneys, it requires to be toasted drier.
Being in every way an economist, I generally save the remnants of the loaf that have become too dry to be eaten as bread, and by just dipping them in warm water, toasting them gradually, and buttering them, I found that they were eaten in preference; but their being stale is a secret of my own, which, if divulged, would prevent their ever being eaten after.
DRY TOAST should not be made until quite ready to serve; when done, place it in a toast-rack, or upon its edges, one piece resting against another. Any kind of toast that has been made half an hour is not worth eating.