Monday, 17 June 2013

toast with personality + a recipe for 'accidental cardamom peach butter'

sunday afternoon with the observer + accidental peach and almond
butter toast
when i was little toast was limited in my imagination to slices of either dawn or continental white bread. the toaster would bronze their whiteness. it would crisp the epidermis while allowing the centre to remain a little soft. one had to be careful to not exert pressure on the slice given its unsubstantial thickness because unlike in england one could not get thick sliced bread in pakistan. brown bread made an appearance in the late 90s and was largely ersatz, merely coloured wheaten.

toast is personal. my brother likes his medium brown with an ample spread of butter. baba’s should be gently toasted with a mere hint of golden. i like mine just shy of dark brown. i am not sure how mama likes hers except that she will have any of the three variants of ours.

i had always treated toast as mundane, its identity secondary to whatever was served on top – a smear of peanut butter with strawberry jam, one of mama’s many homemade jams, salted butter and honey or on the savoury spectrum soft or hard cheeses or shami kebabs. it was not until i moved to london that toast captured my imagination.

in the last couple of years london has been possessed by various food trends and for me the best of this is the revival of real bread. hand crafted sourdough, pain de mie, brioche, tin loaves and fruit and nut bread have become the new toast. along with all this choice came curiosity about the mechanics of bread - its texture and composition determining what it would be good with. sourdough for instance requires an interlocutor between itself and a soft set preserve or honey to prevent it from escaping through the holes. ricotta, cream cheese or labne do just that. a lightly toasted brioche is good with fresh berries and mascarpone and a seeded loaf is good with avocado and a squiggle of sriracha.

this is toast with personality. it is the toast that demands creativity.

the other day i made ‘accidental cardamom peach butter’ (so named because it is the result of poached peaches gone awry). i am sharing this recipe with you because it makes weekday breakfast toast infinitely better. here is the sequence for assembling the toast. lacquer the surface of toasted poilâne with almond butter and then spread it with the accidental butter. eat standing at the kitchen counter with a mug of hot tea.

strictly speaking this ‘accidental cardamom peach butter’ is neither jam nor fruit butter as its sugar content is too low for it to be jam and its texture is not smooth enough to make it the latter. it is definitely not sweet enough for o who likes traditional preserves and jams. i on the other hand love a preserve that is as close to the essence of the fruit. i would recommend making it small batches, as it is not known for its keeping qualities.

{accidental cardamom peach butter}

six peaches, halved and stoned
eighty grams golden sugar
four cardamom pods
two hundred and fifty mls water + more to cover

bruise the cardamom pods gently so as to slightly expose the seeds. place these and the sugar in a light coloured saucepan large enough to comfortably accommodate the peaches in a single layer at a later stage. place the saucepan on medium heat. you want to caramelise the sugar.

caramelising sugar takes a couple of minutes. once the sugar starts to melt and turn liquid around the edges give the pan a little shake. i like mine to be on the darker side but you can make it to your preference.

remove the pan from the heat and gently add the two hundred and fifty mls of water in stages. be careful while you do this as the caramel will hiss and spit. do not worry if it forms lumps as the caramel will be returned to the heat and will melt again.

now add the peach halves to the pan, adding as much water as is necessary to cover them comfortably. return the pan to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer. let the peaches cook until very soft and collapsing. at this stage mash them roughly with a masher and continue to simmer until all the moisture has evaporated and you are left with a preserve that rests confidently on a spoon without moving.

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