When I was a kid, cinnamon toast was one of my favorite after-school snacks. We had a little crock that we kept the cinnamon sugar in, and it came with its own little ladle. I took special pride in being the one to make more of it whenever it ran low—I’d just fill up the crock with mostly sugar, and then mix in ground cinnamon until the color was right. Then I’d toast up a slice of bread, spread a thin layer of . . . spreadable margarine (this was the 80s after all), shower it with my cinnamon sugar, and eat it in front of daytime TV (pre- Rosie O’Donnell Show, this included Matlock, Murphy Brown, and/or Designing Women, listed here in order of preference).
I hadn’t made cinnamon toast in years. Then finally, after eight months of putting it off, last weekend I tried my hand at the Basic Country Bread in the Tartine Bread cookbook. (It’s an intimidating recipe at 24 pages long, with the kind of detail and thoroughness that does not cater to the dilettante baker.) Long story short, the bread was a huge success and I had two massive loaves of delicious bread at my disposal. Once drizzling it with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt got old—followed by ricotta with honey, then butter, then unadorned—it was inevitable that cinnamon toast would seem like a bright idea. I made two slices as dessert one night, then I ate one more slice for a pre-bed snack. Then the next morning, for breakfast, I had two slices more. It hit the spot, clearly, both as a snack and as an excuse to sink into some of those nice cinnamon toast memories.
How does one improve cinnamon toast? One doesn’t, I decided. One can be as picky as one chooses, and carry on making it just the way one likes it. But eventually one might like to try something new, as I did after my binge. So what I have to offer today is nothing fancy or complicated; I’ve simply subbed garam masala for the cinnamon to put on toast. If you’re not familiar, garam masala is a spice blend popular in India and South Asia. Its ingredients vary from one brand—or cook, or region—to the next, but typically they include coriander, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, bay leaves, and some ground chili for heat. (My store-bought blend also includes dried mango, black pepper, ground fennel, and mace.) And as with all spice blends, indeed you can make your own! There are lots of recipes online.
It’s a spice blend that I’ve loved ever since I was first introduced to it at an Indian cookery class I took in London. (One of my favorite uses is in Zucchini Bread.) In curries, it’s typically stirred in at the end of cooking, so that the flavors are sharp. This seems to me why it works so well when mixed with some sugar and sprinkled on buttered toast—its flavors don’t need to be coaxed or muted by time and heat. Which makes Garam Masala Toast a perfect treat to whip up during a commercial break.
Garam Masala Toast
Makes however many slices you desire
2 parts sugar
1 part garam masala
Butter, or vegan butter substitute (like Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, garam masala, and salt. Stir to combine. To taste, lick your finger, stick it in the bowl, then sample the grains that adhered. If it seems too weak or strong, adjust the balance.
2. Toast your bread. Immediately after it comes out of the toaster, dab it with butter. Allow the butter to soften (you can return the bread to a toaster oven, if that’s what you’re using, to encourage the butter to melt). Sprinkle an even layer of the sugar mixture on top. Eat while it’s warm.