Taking Matters into Our Own Hands: Austin Texas Toast

Maybe I'm just unlucky, but it seems as though the more deluxe the breakfast I receive in a restaurant, the greater the chance that the toast is burnt. I'll get bright white-and-yellow eggs, picturesque reddish-brown bacon, golden hash browns, and toast noir.

I'm no longer bothered, as I rely on alternatives such as biscuits or grits, rather than constantly sending carbon-toast back to the kitchen. But I tried my luck in a different city this summer, at the popular and packed Yolk in Chicago.

The attentive pony-tailed server brought my family a precisely cooked breakfast in the vibrant bee-hive atmosphere, accompanied by two slices of what reminded me of heat-shield tiles from a space shuttle re-entry. The toast at the next table was perfect.

The real solution, of course, is to take matters into my own hands, which I've done convincingly. I can't remember why I even bought Central Market's Nine Grain and Honey Bread to begin with, as I was turned off years ago by whole-grain breads. I've yet to find a commercial variety that doesn't have that fiber-board consistency and taste to it, and the ingredient list on Nine Grain isn't promising either.

Wheat, barley, corn millet, oats, rye, triticale, rice, soya, and flax seeds. The list may seem attractive to the Blue Jays in the back yard, but not to me. Indeed, untoasted Nine-Grain favors the rye, and makes a solid sandwich, but you won't find me sneaking slices out of the bag on the way home.

Ahh, but toasting brings out its best. The grains and honey get caramelized, and the nutty flavors of unfamiliar seeds emerge. When I slather it with butter and Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves, I know that restaurant toast would never match it anyway.

Great bread like this has no preservatives, so I double-bag the loaves, to prevent freezer funk, and toss them into deep freeze the day of purchase. It's sometimes tough to pry the slices apart when I pull them out for toasting, but there's no need to thaw them. Perhaps, just for the fun of it, I'll toast a slice until it smokes.

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