When ‘70s school kids came home hungry for a snack to munch in front of The Brady Bunch, they’d flick on the jaffle-maker and whip up a milo to wash it down.
These kids weren’t to know that, decades later, they’d be paying more than mum’s weekly grocery bill for a similar snack at their corner cafe.
Whether you call them toasties, jaffles or simply toasted sandwiches, these golden pockets of cheese lava are today’s foodie sensation, erupting from kitchen benchtops onto haute cuisine menus, including the Guinness World Record’s most expensive sandwich titleholder, worth $US214 (about $A280), from New York’s Serendipity 3. Between bread made with Dom Perignon champagne and flakes of edible gold, the famed toastie contains truffle butter, rare cheeses and is served with a lobster bisque dip.
While New York foodie jaunts are off the menu, the average punter wouldn’t blink at spending over $15 on a toastie to accompany their cold brew or kombucha, and Instagram oozes with semi-indecent toasties spewing out molten cheddar, rainbow-striped goo and carb-on-carb fillings like mac ’n cheese.
A classic toastie porn moment comes from 2014 movie, Chef, when Jon Favreau oils the home hotplate and adds gruyere, parmesan and two types of cheddar to thickly buttered bread, frying it until the filling resembles bungee-grade elastic.
With so much inspiration about, it’s not surprising that homemade cheese toasties are no longer a mere emergency go-to when you run out of instant noodles. More home cooks are realising the after-school staple is worthy of a dedicated grocery shop, and the adornment of gourmet cheeses, niche mushrooms, nduja and truffle oil.
Some argue any toastie worth its cheese must be sealed into patterned triangle pockets, while others embrace flat sandwich presses or pans – a trade-off that saves scraping burnt cheese from dozens of tiny crevices.
Whatever your flavour, a universal requirement is lashings of butter (on both sides), and day-old bread, with the slightly drier texture lending itself to a crispier finish.
Don’t overheat the pan or your bread will burn before the cheese melts, and experiment with varying blends of bitey and melty cheeses to hit the sweet spot between taste and texture.
With a pinch of extra time and effort, you’ll be pronouncing jaffle with a fancy French lilt and serving them up at dinner parties.
MATT PRESTON’S TOASTED CHEESE SANDWICH WITH ‘QUICKLED’ ONIONS
SERVES 1. PREP 15 MINS. COOK 10 MINS
• 1 leek, dark outer leaves removed
• ½ garlic clove, finely grated
• 2 tbs finely grated parmesan
• ½ cup (60g) grated Gruyere or manchego
• ½ buffalo mozzarella ball (60g), torn
• 25g softened unsalted butter or mayonnaise
• 2 x 2cm-thick slices white bread
• 2 tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
• ¼ tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp caster sugar
• 1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 For quickled onions, toss onion, salt and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes to pickle slightly. Stir through vinegar. Set aside for at least 2 minutes or until needed.
2 Clean and trim the leek. Place in a microwave-safe container and microwave uncovered on high for 4 minutes or until the leek is just tender. Split lengthwise then remove the soft inner layers and place in a bowl, discarding the outer layers. Stir through garlic and cheeses.
3 Preheat a sandwich press or frying pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place, butter-side down, on a piece of baking paper.
4 Spread Dijon over one slice. Make a slight indent in the centre of the other slice of bread and fill with leek mixture. Season, then top with the Dijon-spread slice of bread. Cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden and cheese is melted (if using a sandwich press, don’t push down too hard).
5 Serve toastie with quickled onions.
MIXED BERRY JAFFLE
SERVES 4. PREP 5 MINS. COOK 10 MINS
• 8 slices white bread
• 125g Coles brand spreadable cream cheese
• 1 cup Coles brand fresh frozen mixed berries
• 100g Cadbury melts real white chocolate, chopped
• 50g butter, at room temperature
• Icing sugar, to serve
• ½ cup maple syrup, to serve
1 Preheat a sandwich press. Place the bread on a clean board and spread with cream cheese. Top 4 slices with berries and sprinkle with chocolate. Top with remaining bread, cream-cheese side down. Spread top of each sandwich with butter.
2 Cook each sandwich for 2 mins or until golden and bubbly. Dust with icing sugar and serve with maple syrup.
CHEESE & KIMCHI JAFFLE
SERVES 1. PREP 5 MINS. COOK 5 MINS
• ½ cup kimchi
• 2 slices bread
• 5g butter, softened
• 2 slices vintage cheddar
1. Drain kimchi and pat dry with paper towel.
2. Spread bread with butter. Place 1 slice, butter-side down, on sandwich press. Top with 1 slice of cheese, kimchi and remaining cheese. Finish with remaining bread, butter-side up.
3. Bring down sandwich press lid and cook for 3 minutes, or until toasted and filling is heated through. Cut to serve.