The point of a garnish is to provide a pleasing visual element to a dish that is also edible. For salads, soups and similar dishes, crisped toast is the ideal garnish. The varieties of toast that you can make depend on the types of bread at your disposal.
From brioche to rye and Italian loaf, breads vary in texture and flavor. Brioche is an egg-based bread known for its crispy crust and soft, very dense inside. Focaccia is chewy with an herbal flavor, while sourdough has a strong, yeasty taste, chewy center and crispy crust. You can toast any type of bread. The choice of bread depends only on the dish you intend to make. The bread should complement the dish in flavor and appearance. For example, bitter rye toast is a nice contrast to a sweet, tangy tomato soup. The coloring of black-and-white swirled rye bread is also a pleasing visual addition to the red soup.
You can toast any type of bread in either a toaster or a toaster oven. Loaf breads that can be sliced to fit in a toaster are usually toasted in that manner. Toast larger breads in a toaster oven. When placed on the rack or on a small pan in the toaster oven, the top of the bread is quickly toasted, giving it a browned appearance. You can also toast breads in a conventional oven. Place the bread on a cookie sheet in the oven. Turn on the oven's broiler function and watch the bread closely. It will toast quickly. Grilling the bread over a fire and sauteing it in a pan on a stove top are other ways to toast bread for garnishes.
Any type of toast can be shaped with cookie cutters to take the form you want it to for your garnish. There are several uses for these garnishes. They can add texture to soups when placed on the side of the bowl or sticking out of the soup. Use dense, crispy toasted bread that won't get soggy before reaching the table. French bread toast works well. Place several textures and colors of toast in a bread basket or on a platter as a centerpiece on a table. Toast can also garnish dips and spreads, breakfast dishes like eggs, salads and even casseroles.
When choosing your toasting method, remember the limits. A toaster will leave lines on the bread that may not work with your garnish plans. Sauteing requires butter or some fat on the bread that will change the flavor, and toasting bread in an oven or toaster oven creates toast with one browned side and one untoasted side. Taste the bread before using it to ensure that the flavor and texture will work with the dish, because most people will eat the garnish. Choosing a bread type for looks alone can diminish the dish in the end.
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