Is making toast—the browning of bread—cooking? It demands no culinary skill, nor does it require a recipe. And unless the slice is being suspended over an open flame or put in a frying pan and requires the intervention of a human agent for turning the bread over and then removing it at the perfect moment of doneness, it is simply up to the engineering feat of an appliance.
The first electric toaster was a crude device known as the Eclipse, invented in 1893 by Alan MacMasters in Scotland.
Charles Strite invented the modern timed pop-up toaster in 1919. Today, the toaster is the most common household appliance.
So why does toast taste so good?
It’s due to a complex bit of science called the Maillard Reaction (pronounced my-yard). Named for the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who discovered the process at the start of the 20th century, it refers to many small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in and on your food are transformed by heat, producing new flavours, aromas, and colours.
…the Maillard reaction is responsible for the browned, complex flavors that make bread taste toasty and malty, burgers taste charred, and coffee taste dark and robust. If you plan on cooking tonight, chances are you’ll be using the Maillard reaction to transform your raw ingredients into a better sensory experience.
Bread is one of my favourite foods, and toast is daily fare at our house, and not just at breakfast. So the toaster lives on the counter. It’s in use and on show.
When I upgraded my kitchen gear, I chose the retro-style Smeg toaster designed in Italy in collaboration with Italian architects Matteo Bazzicalupo and Raffaella Mangiarott.
It features six browning levels, and functions that include Bagel (just toasts on one side), Reheat (so if you forget about your toast you can warm it again), and Frozen. It’s powerful and fast with extra-wide slots, and it’s curvy body with a gleaming mirror finish (on the chrome version) looks stunning in the kitchen. An occasional buffing with a micro-fibre cloth keeps it shining.
It’s well-designed and well-built. It’s a high-quality machine with a heavy-duty stainless steel body. Even the lever has a stainless steel knob. The crumb tray is also made of stainless steel and is removable for easy cleaning. The unit weighs about 6 lbs which is substantial compared to cheaper models. Although it is pricier than those flimsy competitors.
I think it’s worth it because Smeg has made a toaster that not only looks beautiful, it also performs brilliantly.
It would make a lovely Christmas gift they’re sure to like.
‘Cause who doesn’t love toast?