While Melba toast might seem like one of the plainest foods on the planet, it actually shares a pedigree — or at least an eponym — with a rather fancy dessert. Both Melba toast and peach Melba were named after (and in fact might have been created for) Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer who was the late 19th century equivalent of a rock star. (Opera hasn’t always been considered the sole province of stuffy, old, rich people in formal wear.)
The dessert and the toast were both created by the equally rockstar-like chef Escoffier of London’s Savoy Hotel (Via Times Colonist). The former dish was meant to honor her bravissima performance in Wagner’s "Lohengrin," but the latter was given to the diva to help her recover from an illness. While Melba toast has long been associated with both the sickroom and with dieting, it is actually quite delicious to nibble on even when you’re fit as a fiddle (or an operatic soprano). What’s more, you don’t have to be Escoffier to make homemade Melba toast. As recipe developer Tommy Leung shows us, this snack really couldn’t be any easier to prepare. He likes making Melba toast because "It’s great to keep at home as a healthier snack for kids," telling us his 2-year-old and 4-year-old love the stuff. While they’re probably not concerned with nutrition, Leung’s glad to serve them something he says is "healthier than processed chips and snacks, without all the added sodium and fats."
What you’ll need to make Melba toast
Not only is Melba toast incredibly simple to make, but it’s super-thrifty as well. Really, the only thing you need to make it is bread. Just bread. Leung used a plain old loaf of the supermarket stuff, and although he did specify "day-old" bread, there’s no reason it has to be. "The benefit of using day-old bread," he says, "is just that it’s a great way to make use of bread that might otherwise be a little bit stale."
Leung also suggests using different types of bread to make Melba toasts, depending on what kind of flavor profile you’re looking for. He enjoys his Melba toast with avocados and thinks sourdough bread would work great. "I think the sour tang would work really well with the fatty avocado."
How to make Melba toast
For starters, if the loaf of bread you have to work with is an unsliced one, you’ll need to slice it. Even if your loaf is the greatest thing since sliced bread (because it is sliced bread), Leung suggests carefully slicing the bread through the middle again as this will give you "a thinner toast," but does add that this extra step is optional. You’ll also need to remove the crusts from the sliced bread. If you find this step a bit of a pain in the rear, think of it as payback for all the times you made your mom cut those icky crusts off your childhood PB&Js. Lay the sliced bread on a baking sheet (no need to grease or line the pan), then bake it at 300 F until it’s golden brown. In this case, it’s no big deal if you forgot to preheat the oven, since there’s no precise timing involved, but Leung said it took his toast about 25 minutes to reach the desired state of doneness.
You can make croutons with the leftover bread crusts
While using day-old bread is in itself a budget-minded move, Leung offers a tip that makes this dish even more frugal: You can re-purpose the crusts you’ve cut off your bread. If you have thick, chunky pieces, you can cut them into squares, toss them with a little olive oil or melted butter and your choice of seasonings, and put them in the oven alongside the Melba toasts to crisp up into croutons. If you have thinner strips (maybe you’ve mastered the art of thin crust cutting thanks to having picky PB&J eaters of your own?), you can make breadcrumbs. Just throw the strips in the oven until they’re dry and then grind them to use as a future crumb coating for chicken or fish.
How to serve Melba toast
If you want to make Melba avocado toast as Leung does, he says it takes two avocados to top a loaf’s worth of toast. There are tons of other options if you’re not into avocados, though. "Since it’s so nice and crispy," says Leung, "it’s an excellent vessel for any kind of delicious dips." He also suggests serving it with whipped cream cheese mixed with chives, with smoked salmon, or with a cheese platter or charcuterie board. And he tells us that these toasts "would look stunning on top of a soup," as well as adding "delicious crunch."
Melba toast can do sweet as well as savory, if that’s your preference. Try it with honey, Nutella, or jam –- or you could even top it with peanut butter and jelly for a grown-up (yet still crust-less) version of your old favorite.
"What’s also great," Leung tells us, "is you can make a big batch of Melba toast and store it in an airtight container or glass jar." Since the bread it’s made from has been basically dehydrated in the oven, he says it can last for months if kept that way.
- 1 day-old loaf of bread
- 2 avocados, peeled and sliced or "smashed"
- Slice the bread if needed.
- Cut off the crusts from the slices of bread.
- Carefully cut each slice in two through the middle to get a thinner toast, if desired.
- Layer the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown (about 25 minutes).
- Toast the leftover crusts in the oven to make croutons or breadcrumbs, if desired.
- Serve Melba toast plain, with avocado, or with any other toppings of your choice.