Thursday, January 11, 2007

Texas toast points

Sometimes I fail at being a Homesick Texan. Yes, yes, I know it may be hard to believe, but there are some challenges just too impossible to overcome.

But first, let’s get something straight. That product called Texas toast you find in the freezer section of the grocery store? It may be toast, but it’s not Texas toast—it’s garlic bread. I don’t mean to disparage the stuff, which has lots of fans and I understand is quite tasty. But it’s so far from the real deal, I just felt it time to stand up, stomp my feet and say something.

I’ve ranted on this before and I will rant on this again: Texas is not an adjective to be used lightly, yet people love to throw it around, usually when trying to conjure a sense of great size. Last time I checked, Alaska was the biggest state in terms of land mass and California in terms of population. So why not Alaskan toast? Or Californian toast? OK, perhaps the lack of alliteration makes those names less snappy. And yes, perhaps we should be flattered, but there is a real food out there called Texas toast and it upsets me to see people eating something mislabeled.

So what exactly is Texas toast? It’s an inch-thick square slab of white bread—yes, the bad-for-you square slice that comes from a long, skinny loaf wrapped in plastic, labeled with a brand such as Mrs. Baird’s. It’s slathered in butter and broiled on both sides. No garlic, maybe some salt, and never, ever cheese. Take a bite and you’ll be in heaven—if heaven for you is a thick, buttery, crispy bite that leads to a soft and airy center.

Clearly, this isn’t cowboy chow or even something your great-great-grandmother cooked, such as chili or cornbread; it’s a by-product of commercial food—a fairly recent invention. The story goes that in 1941, Royce Hailey, owner of the Pig Stand chain, wanted a thicker slice of bread for his customers to mop up their gravy. His bread purveyor, Rainbo, complied, but since it was too thick for a conventional toaster, his cooks broiled it in the oven, heavily buttered on both sides. Royce dubbed it Texas toast and a new taste tradition was born.


You’ll find Texas toast all over the state, usually accompanying chicken fried steak or some other dish doused in cream gravy. In some parts of the state you’ll also get it with bbq, and not only is it available at the cafeteria but Whataburger has it, too. And if you want to make it at home in Texas, no problem, you can grab a Texas-toast-style loaf of bread at any grocery store. But you cannot find it outside of the South, I sadly discovered a few years ago. It’s not in restaurants and the special bread cannot be purchased anywhere. Yes, in case you’re wondering, Texas toast was my impossible dream.

A couple of years ago, a friend was making ribs for his Super Bowl party. I asked what I could contribute and he replied, “You’re a Texan, why not bring Texas toast?” I had never tried to make it in NYC but figured it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just pick up a loaf at the grocery, grab some butter and I’d be done. Right? Wrong! I searched countless grocery stores from the Bronx to the Battery and discovered that nobody sold it. Nobody! Instead, I was always directed to the freezer section and shown that mislabeled garlic bread. After pulling out my hair and crying, “Why, why, why?” I just gave up. You can’t make Texas toast with homemade bread, it just wouldn’t be the same; you need that thickly sliced commercial junk bread to get the right airy texture. So without a loaf, I was foiled. And I learned a sad lesson: if I want Texas toast, I have to go to Texas (or some other nearby state that sells the fixins for it).

Yes, I admit, Texas toast is about as classy as queso, but who cares? It’s tasty. And if you’ve never had the real deal, I highly recommend you try it next time you visit Texas or the South. I wish I had better news, but until they market Texas-toast-style loaves in far-flung places, Texas toast won’t be traveling too far from its home.

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43 comments:

melissa mcgee said...

THANK YOU for clearing that up. that's been a source of contention for me for a while now. living in temple, only minutes away from the largest military installation in the country (ft hood), central texas is filled with transplants from all over the country. it gives me heartburn to go to a party or potluck and hear that somebody's brought "texas toast"; i get my hopes up, thinking it'll be a loaf of thick, crusty slices... only to find that it's that garlic bread abomination. i grew up on REAL texas toast, which might help explain the size of my thighs.

incidently, i remember as a kid living in dallas, we would visit my dad's great aunt in ft. worth every sunday, and we would always drive us by the mrs. baird's bakery on davis blvd. when we got close, he would say "roll down the windows!" and the car would be filled with the unmistakable, inimitable aroma of fresh-baked bread eminating from the bakery. that's a great memory for me. mrs. baird's is certainly a part of my childhood.

Nicole said...

I use Texas Toast bread for french toast and for grilled cheese sandwiches sometimes too! I don't normally buy white bread but I love the thickness!! And no, they don't sell it in Sicily but they do sell it in our commissary on the military base (along with Ro*tel tomatoes). But I didn't know that real Texas toast isn't garlic bread :-) All I know of it is what they sell in the freezer section! Thanks for the info :-)

Lizard said...

I LOVE your blog. I saw your comment on AllRecipes. We are misplaced Texans living in San Jose, CA. No one understands when we say that we miss TexMex. They always come back with "We have mexican food" Ohhh it is NOT the same. Thank you for your commitment to our cuisine that can frankly make me cry with its goodness.
*I suggest a visit to Mel's Country Cafe east of Tomball, Tx for their plate size chicken fried steak!! Follow that up with Peach Cobbler with Bluebell vanilla ice cream!!! (Ache in stomach)

Other Nicole said...

I wonder if there is a way to get similar bread here though. I know that in some diners when you order french toast, you get thick slices of commercial bread that have been made into french toast. Maybe check with restaurant food distributors? Or local diners? :) At the very worst, have your mother mail you a loaf! My mother mailed me real U-Bet chocolate syrup for real egg creams while I (a native NYer) was in Boston, surely yours can mail you bread! :)

Homesick Texan said...

Melissa-You're very welcome. And yes, the smell of Mrs. Baird's bread baking is soooo divine. We went to the the Fort Worth bakery for a field trip when I lived in Dallas and I was so excited b/c they gave us each a mini-loaf of bread. My mom was super-granola back then and white bread just felt so decadent. You can also catch a whiff on Central Expressway near SMU. Mmmmmm, such a great olfactory memory indeed!

Nicole--That's nuts that you can buy it in Italy but I can't buy it in NYC! Granted it's on a military base--but still!

Lizard--Thank you! And next time I'm in Houston (my Mom actually lives quite close to Tomball) I'll check out Mel's Country Cafe. Sounds delish.

Other Nicole--Excellent idea! I'll see if my local diner will sell me a loaf.

The County Clerk said...

The Pig Stands

YESSSSSSSSSSSSS.

I need to get on an airplane.

adam said...

No one likes to boast about Alaska. They don't have a rich and proud heritage like Texas. Besides, Alaska wasn't its own republic at one time.

You hit the nail on the head about Texas Toast. Thick-sliced, buttered toast. The end. Great post.

Lizard said...

Have you ever done a tribute to Ranch-Style beans? Those little guys make me sooo happy. My Grandparents lived near the Ranch Style Bean factory in Ft. Worth and I looked upon its facade as if it was a national treasure.

melissa mcgee said...

oh my goodness - i had completely forgotten about smelling mrs baird's on central expy - and i lived there only a few years ago! i guess it made a bigger impression when i was a kid... but i definitely remember the smells from the one in dallas!

Homesick Texan said...

County Clerk--You know, I have never ever been to a Pig Stand. And now I read that they're temporarily closed due to debt. I hope they reopen because I feel like I really missed out on something.

Adam--Well, there is baked Alaska. But I reckon you're correct! Thank you.

Lizard--I did a short post on Ranch Style Beans, but it is a subject worthy of closer examination. How cool your family lived by the factory! Remember when they were "Husband Pleasin'"?

Melissa--Those lucky SMU kids get to live in Mrs. Baird's heaven!

Alison said...

My favorite is a BLT served on Texas Toast, nothing gets better than that.

Homesick Texan said...

Alison--Texas toast makes for an outstanding BLT!

suburban housefrau said...

Sadly, the Mrs Baird's factories near SMU - and I believe the one in FW - are not producing bread anymore. They were bought by Bimbo bakeries, HQ in Mexico, and I don't think they produce in the US anymore. :(

Entenmann's, Tia Rosa, and Oroweat are part of the same conglomerate.

Yvo said...

Mmmm, that sounds really good. I admit that I mentioned Texas toast a while back and I thought of the thick garlic toast. I do love garlic bread though.... but the real Texas toast sounds heavenly.

As for the diners- most of the diners that I go to that have the huge thick slices of French toast, it's challah bread, isn't it? Which is wonderful but eggy and might not suit your purpose. However... I've been to these random Japanese? cafes that serve toast as a snack/appetizer, and the slices are generally really thick. In particular, most people seem to favor this kind that is basically thick thick thick sliced, slathered with condensed milk and/or butter (flavored or not), then re-toasted. I've had it and while I'm not the biggest fan... well, maybe you could ask them where they get their bread? It's definitely white bread but on the sweet side- it may even be the same bread you find in Asian bakeries, which tends to be thickly sliced, I think. Just a possible lead... mmm, I want some real Texas toast now :)

Jerry said...

Greetings from Wichita Falls, TX

I'm not sure if this will help, but Castaway's In Brewerton NY had, at one time Texas French Toast. which means they've got the bread. If they do, i'm sure you could talk the kitchen manager out of a few loaves, or into ordering a few extra for you.

Here's the particulars:
Castaways
916 County Route 37, Brewerton, NY 13029-9784
Phone: (315)668-3434
D G's Too

eliza said...

texas toast is excellent, i love it! there's not much restaurant here that serve true texas toast, so i resolved buying the frozen one made by pepperidge farm. it's not even close to the real one, huh?

Homesick Texan said...

Suburban Housefrau--That makes me so sad!

Yvo--Funny you should mention Japanese food b/c when I visited Tokyo, I would grab at the local 7-11-type store this packaged treat that was two Texas-toast-style thick slices of white bread with chocolate between it. I'll check the Asian markets and and see if they have the bread. Thanks!

Jerry--I've been planning a road trip to that part of the state because I understand one of Ninfa's sons has a restaurant up there, and I'm curious to see how it rates. I'll have to stop by Castaways and see if they're still serving Texas French Toast. Thanks for the tip!

Eliza--Sadly, the frozen kind is nothing like the real deal.

pokerboss said...

It's sad but true that the Calder Pig Stand closed here in Beaumont. Fortunately, I can still get real Texas Toast anytime.

Ken Wheaton said...

Now you know how I feel when people throw the word "gumbo" around. My dad likes to point out that the freezer-section Texas Toast says right on the box that it's made ... well, not in Texas.

Glenda said...

Mrs. Baird's bread definitely isn't the same level of quality as it was back when the company was owned and run by the Baird Family. Used to, Baird's bread was always so fresh . . . not so much anymore. Hubby was a Baird's deliveryman several years before The Bairds sold their company and, back then, their bread never stayed on the shelf for more than three days before being rotated out with fresher loaves. That's not the case anymore tho. Getting a really fresh loaf is hit or miss nowadays.

Of course, when you brush both sides of the thick-sliced bread with butter and then toast it, the freshness isn't such a big deal ;-). Love love love that Texas Toast!

When I was in junior high, AstroWorld (in Houston) had a small Mrs. Baird's bakery in their food court area. The loaves were freshly-baked mini-loaves and boy were they good!!

Homesick Texan said...

Glenda--YES! I'd completely forgotten about those mini-loaves of Mrs. Baird's bread sold at Astroworld. I loved those! That's sad to hear, however, that the brand's gone downhill. I went to college with a Baird, I should look him up and chastise him for selling out their good name.

afraidofnames said...

Texas Toast has been flung a little farther than you might suspect. My grocery store here in Michigan (Meijer, a major chain here,) carries these thick-sliced loaves. It's a standard package of industrial bread made by Meijer, but I don't remember exactly what it's labeled, other than that 'Texas' is on the package. I've picked 'em up before to make French toast, they're good for that too.

I know Michigan isn't New York, but it looks like the toast is inching its way ever closer.

jodigirl said...

Texas toast is definately inching close to NY. I live 30 miles north of Pittsburgh and the diner on Main Street in Zelienople PA serves it! Plain - buttered and grilled on both sides, TEXAS TOAST. No garlic, thick squares......fabulous. Today, I went grocery shopping and lo and behold, it was in the deli section of the grocery store. Grabbed a loaf and will be enjoying a giant breakfast in the morning. I'm here to tell you, it IS headed your way!

Sherpa said...

I know exactly what you're talking about and until this fall I had never been to Texas (airports don't count).


Trader Joe's sells a Texas Toast loaf of bread now. Its awesome.

Jessica said...

Hmm, is Arnold's brick oven white bread thick enough? It's shaped like a perfect square and nearly an inch thick. I've seen it at some Gristedes, William Morton and Associated markets.

Anonymous said...

I live in Dallas Texas and buy Texas Toast all the time. I have not been able to find it for about two months. I finally ran into the Mrs. Bairds rep and he told me they took it off the market. They now sell it only to restaurants. Please notify Mrs. Bairds and ask them to bring it back.

BEAR said...

Sorry to intrude. I cook brisket. I slow cook it with mesquite. About thirty hours does it good. I sometimes cook up a bunch, and then freeze it, 'cause up here in northern Colorado, it is kinda hard to keep the smoker warm in the winter time when the wind is blowin at a hundred miles an hour and the windchill is thirty below. So, let's imagine that someone sent you a smoked brisket that was frozen solid. For me, I would put it in a roasting pan, cover it in foil so that no moisture can get out, and reheat it at about 170 degrees for about 30 minutes per pound. In about four to five hours, it should still be tender; (if it was cooked right in the first place, and yes, reheating it too quickly can make it tough). Now, what some of us do on a Friday night when watching movies is to cut the hot brisket up in little pieces and have a hot bowl of Bar-B-Q sauce nearby with toothpicks and ouila, finger food brisket. Two of my buddies and I were watching Monty Python and "the search for the Holy Grail" and went through 11 pounds of brisket in the process. We did not even touch the barbque baked beans or the hot apple cobbler (both cooked in cast iron dutch ovens.) So the point of this is that I can cook seven briskets at a time. If some of you home sick Texicans need a fix, I can and will prepare for you a brisket or two, freeze them up, and ship them by Fed-Ex over night to where ever you are. What it will cost you is friendship, and you cover the costs of the meat, the wood, the packaging, and the Fed-Ex. The time and know how is on me. I just need a bit of advance notice 'cause it is going to take a minimum of three days to get it to you if I have the time. Let me know what you think. Best regards,
BEAR (bearslighthouse@frii.com)

Sara said...

I too am on a search for the real Texas Toast. I live up in CT (not that far from you) and for a little while we had a grocery store that sold loaves of My Bread brand Texas Toast. It was wonderful! I would toast them up in my toaster oven then slather butter all over and then sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over it! But sad to say the grocery store went out of business a few years ago and is now a Circut City. What I'd give to have some of that wonderful cinnamon toast again. Good luck in your search.

dave said...

Many years ago I began my professional career working for Bonanza Steakhouses. Every entree included a slice of Texas Toast. There are so many funny stories surrounding my 10+ years with Bonanza, but several of them dealt directly with Texas Toast. We used a special piece of "equipment" to butter the bread, placed 8 loaves on a plastic tray, covered the bread with plastic wrap, and then waited to toast and serve at meal times. We used a special press (well it actually just was a piece of square stainless steel) that rested on top of the Toast as it sat on the flat grill. The press made sure there was an even toasting and it held just enough moisture in while cooking that the result was pure ecstasy. To this day I can make my wife's heart flutter by firing up the grill and toasting her three or four pieces of this golden Texas delicacy.

Cynthia from Louisiana said...

I am a NW Louisiana expat (Bossier City) and have lived in NYC since 2001, and I MISS MISS MISS Texas Toast. There is a bbq joint in Shreveport called The Hickory Stick where the counter ladies call you "baby" and when you order the rib plate or the brisket, they take that paintbrush sitting in the golden liquid buttery goo (butter? margarine? who cares?), slather both sides of a piece of Texas Toast, and slap it on the grill while they load up your styrofoam box with piles of meat smoked just out back, covered in a thick, smoky, warm and spicy sauce that was in a container on the griddle just next to the golden greasy goo, plus a divine mustard potato salad made with potatoes pushed through a ricer and just barely damp with mayo, and their very own bbq beans with fatback. Once that's all packed up, they slap the now-browned, greasy yet crispy, slab of warm Texas Toast over the top of the whole thing and push the lid down. By the time you got back to the office, the bbq sauce had melded with the golden goo on the Texas Toast, some of the bean broth had worked its way into the potato salad, and you devoured the whole thing at your desk while people poked their heads in the door saying "Oh MAN! You got Hickory Stick!"

I'm oven-bbq'ing a brisket on Christmas day. Dry rub, slow cooking, till it falls apart. Hickory Stick doesn't bottle or ship their sauce so I am using McClard's from Hot Springs AR. It's very spicy but if you add it in the last 2 hours of cooking, it imparts a divine flavor to the meat.

Sadly, we will have no Texas Toast to grease up, griddle, and sop our sauce with. Because it's not available here in NYC. Some fiendish friend who has never been south of Philly suggested I use challah. She ain't gettin' a sour cream poundcake from me this year.

I will make my annual pilgrimage back home in May. The first thing I will do after kissing my mom hello and claiming my baggage is to drive straight to the Hickory Stick and get blissed out on a meat overdose. And you bet I'll be asking those nice ladies who call me "Baby" to give me an extra slice of TT.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Homesick - you'll be sad to note the passing of the Mrs. Bairds plant on Mockingbird happened almost SIX years ago with the completion of construction on I-75.

We took class field trips there as well and always walked away with our choice of baked good, and share similar memories of rolling down the window for the scent of fresh baked bread.

Now, in it's place - luxury condo's and an empty shell of the bakery.

Makes me sad every time I pass it...

Repatriated Texan

manywaters said...

You might try running by a large Japanese grocery store and looking for "3 slice shokupan". Shokupan is Japanese sandwich bread, and it's perfectly pillowy soft. 3 slice refers to how thickly the loaf is cut, and 3 or 4 slice makes great Texas Toast here on our Navy base in Japan, and *killer* french toast.

Steve Wright said...

On a side note, I just stumbled onto your awesome blog while looking up Texas Toast (and ironically eating the tasty but as I rightly assumed far from original freezer treat). In Canada (Where I'm from), Dempsters makes a TEXAS TOAST loaf with super thick slices that I ate through my whole childhood. Used to love it for super thick and chewy white bread sandwiches. So there are places other than Texas that sell it, just NORTH of the border I guess!

Joanna said...

The only places I had Texas Toast growing up was at the local Texas cafeteria style restaurants. Yes I know there will be groans especially when the infamous retirement restaurant, Luby's, is mentioned, but they made awesome Texas Toast. I think they rarely serve it now because they seem to be slightly more health conscious for the current senior goers.

I will say that I am a fan of the frozen kind due to my love of garlic bread, but it is true that it's not Real Texas Toast. It's starting to seem like everything culinary that Texas is good at is just greasy and bad for you which makes you love it more..lol. I remember I used to always ask if I could get an extra Texas Toast even after dessert when we went to Luby's. I've lost lotsa weight since moving from Texas... but I still salivate at the thoughts of all the foods I miss.

mcfitzsatx said...

The last Pig Stand is still open in San Antonio on Broadway.

Anonymous said...

I can't make french toast without TEXAS toast (although, french bread is also okay ;]). I've lived in Texas my entire life and yes, you can purchase the real Texas Toast on the non-freezer aisle along with the regular packaged white bread and flour tortillas.

I LOVE this blog because I can find great recipes for the food I've grown up with. It also makes me really, REALLY appreciate living in Texas! Austin, of course.

MisplacedTexasGirl said...

I found this blog today as I was browsing recipes on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I love the discussion about Mrs. Bairds bread because I was truly dissapointed when they were bought out. My first job was as a cashier at Winn Dixie in Grapevine, TX and I remember clearly the delivery guy bringing in Mrs. Bairds bread still warm in the plastic. It's a travesty what the bread is like now. I live in Arizona and on my yearly sojurn back home I would run to get me a loaf of Mrs. Bairds texas toast.... I was heartbroken the first time I had it after the change. *sigh*

grace said...

The Pig Stand bled Texas comfort food. So does Chris Madrid.

I grew up in San Antonio, and I'm torn between my favorite bread. My popo was a mechanic for Rainbo, and my uncle is still one for Mrs. Baird's. I grew up with the bread and sweets that had just been wrapped and slid of the conveyor belt. It's funny how talking about something like bread can bring up amazing childhood memories

Rock on HT!

Twizzle said...

Hi,
I know this is an old post of yours but I just found it...

About the Japanese bread... you might be able to try to make a loaf to slice thick like Texas Toast by using the kinds of bread pans the Japanese use for theirs.

They use loaf pans that have lids on them to prevent the bread from rising so it stays a uniform square and is a denser bread.

This is the style bread pan they use:

http://www.amazon.com/Matfer-Pullman-Bread-Pan-Cover/dp/B0001X9H50


The only thing is I don't have a recipe so you would have to experiment. But maybe just a regular ol' white bread recipe would work

mmmmm next time I travel to the US I am going to get me a loaf pan like this :)

southernmanners said...

If you're near a Trader Joe's, they carry Texas Toast not that garlic bread junk. I just got some last week.

DaJoy said...

Hi! I found Texas Toast in NY! crazy as it may be, and what brought on the new addition to my kosher grocery store I have no idea, Brach's grocery in Lawrence, NY has a big ol' loaf of fresh Texas Toast bread! ok I realize this is Long Island, but its still NY.

Becky B. said...

Hi - Just found your blog via the Wall Street Journal. I'm a transplant as well (grew up in Austin, now living in Ohio), so thank you for publishing so many recipes that make me homesick! I can't wait to start trying them.

About Texas Toast: did you ever go to the Bon Ton restaurant in La Grange? Best Texas Toast ever!!!

Texas Red said...

Another homesick TEXAN here! Texas Toast can be found in the Safeway store,The Dalles Oregon,(in the bread section,(not frozen) I am pretty sure the other Safeways in Oregon carry it or can get it. It's the real deal ! It is a regular at the Buster's Barbecue in the Portland Oregon area.(They came up from Houston in the early 80's (if I recall correctly) And they have a pretty good real Texas Barbecue. Texas T: My wife buys a couple of loaves at a time and freezes(individual slices) it so we don't run out.

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