The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

1. Assessing the quality of your bread 2. What are your favourite open sandwich toppings?

rossnroller's picture

1. Assessing the quality of your bread 2. What are your favourite open sandwich toppings?

My assessment ritual with new loaves (I only do SD) is as follows:

1. When the 2 hour cooling period is up, I slice an end off, spread it with a little unsalted butter, and share it with my partner.  Exchange oohs and aahs (when appropriate).

2. Cut the first slice proper, assess the 'nose', have a prolonged gawp at the crumb and give it a prod, take a pic or 10 if it's nice and open, smear slice with butter - and put it to the taste test. I know purists like to taste bread unadulterated, but for me, the ultimate sample is of a generous slice thinly buttered. I also love to spread a slice from a freshly baked bread with butter and honey, but not until later.

3. Next comes an open sandwich. And here's where I'm particularly interested in toppings others like. My favourites:

  • Good quality shaved ham off the bone on thickish slice of bread spread with butter, mayo (home-made obviously best, but much of the time I settle for the convenience of a decent commercial brand like S&W), aioli or a good mustard (Dijon or hot English). I usually add some rocket (aragula) from the garden or lettuce of some type.
  • Chicken - preferably the grey parts - sliced off the remains of last night's roast and mixed with mayo, ground white pepper and a sprinkle of quality paprika, with thinly spread butter and rocket or lettuce. Sometimes, also, I like to have chicken with cranberry sauce on buttered bread.
  • Egg mixed with mayo, fresh ground white pepper and a hint of paprika, and sometimes with a little pickled gerkin chopped in, spread on buttered bread - again with rocket or lettuce.
  • Egg mixed as above + asparagus on buttered bread.
  • I did try a variation of bánh mì, using the usual Vietnamese toppings but on a thick slice of SD bread, rather than enclosed in a white Vietnamese baguette - nice, but not a keeper. The traditional way is better.
  • For bread more than a day old, my absolute favourite is open toasties with butter, mayo, ham, cheese and sliced red onion, with fresh ground black pepper + sprinkles of paprika and cayenne pepper. Basically, a variation on a croque monsieur.
  • Love bruschetta, but only when good tomatoes are available (much of the time the supermarket tomatoes are tasteless in this part of the world)
  • Sardines on buttered toast with a bit of tomato sauce smeared over + fresh ground pepper is always yum.
  • Of course, I like all the usual spreads on toast - marmalade, peanut butter, Vegemite (yeah, I know, I know - it's a downunder thang), jam...but that goes without saying.

I'm getting a bit jaded with my usual lunch toppings, especially the ham. So, looking for inspiration from others - would love to hear from you re your favourite toppings!

Best of baking!


Franko's picture

Hi Ross,

My assesment ritual for a 700+gram loaf is let the bread cool a minimum of 8hrs, taste the bread plain 1st, then put butter or olive oil on the next slice whether I liked the first taste or not. :^)

I know what you mean about the same old standards like ham and cheese. My usual is smoked ham, emmental, with thin sliced sweet onion, mustard and a dill pickle slice. It's good,... but you know there have to be alternatives that are just as, if not more savory. Last night I grilled up a nice strip loin and made some Chimichurri sauce to have with it. Well for lunch today I thought I'd toast up some semolina levain bread I made last week and top it with thin slices of the grilled steak, dress it with the Chimichurri sauce, and finish it with some sliced tomato and lettuce. Mmmm mmm! Probably the best sandwich I've had in a long time. The other thing I've been doing for sandwiches lately is using an organic dried salami along with provolone cheese, pepperoncini, thin sliced sweet onion, tomato, dressed with vinaigrette, on whatever bread I have, and warmed in the microwave for a minute or so. Not breaking any new ground with either of these suggestions, but both are a welcome change from the standard ham and cheese. As for Vegemite, we Canucks have our own national favourite called Kraft Dinner. Beyond me why either are as popular as they are, but 'something for everybody' is my motto when food is the subject.

Best Wishes,


rossnroller's picture


I don't know Chimichurri sauce - must look it up. We're not steak folk, though. Is it always combined with steak?

I do know all about Kraft Dinners! I have a Canuck mate who devours Kraft Dinners for lunch at least twice per week (he doctors them in wondrous ways) and waxes lyrical over...gulp...KFC! He does like to be perverse, so not convinced he's genuine in his declared devotion to these items. Dunno if you saw that hilarious and moving doco from a couple of years back, Anvil! The Story of Anvil (always smile at that repetition of 'Anvil' in the title!). Kraft Dinners figured in that - not a leading role, but why would it be? As an integral part of Canadian popular gastronomic culture, it's just a given, I guess?!

Back to toppings, I forgot to add two of my favourites on day old+ toasted SD:

  • prosciutto on toast rubbed with the fresh cut surface of a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil.
  • Smoked salmon or trout on buttered SD toast, or on the more traditional cream cheese spread with a few capers on top of the salmon.

Oh pleeeease, more suggestions folks...

pmccool's picture

you could tweak your chicken/cranberry combo slightly and sub cream cheese for the butter.  Works great with roast turkey breast, too.

There's always the "Blue Plate Special" beloved of small-town restaurants in the U.S.: the hot roast beef or  hot turkey sandwich.  Slice of bread + gravy + slice of meat + slice of bread + more gravy on top.  This is a knife and fork sandwich.  Usually served with a side of mashed potatos and...wait for it...gravy.

The fried-egg sandwich: fried egg, mayo, and a slice of sweet onion between slices of bread of your choice.

Once of the odder combos I've had and actually liked: peanut butter, strawberry or raspberry jam, a slice of mild Cheddar (or Colby) cheese, and Kraft Miracle Whip (a sweeter version of mayo).  It's got all of the sweet / salty / tangy / mellow stuff going on at once.

Various combinations of cappicola, mortadella, prosciutto, salami, bell peppers, hot peppers, Provolone, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, vinegar, oil, Italian dressing, salt, pepper in a sub sandwich.  This is, of course, a highly abbreviated list of possible ingredients.

Dunno if I could still eat this one and call it good but it seemed just fine when I was a kid: head cheese made by my grandfather, mayo, and cracked black pepper.


rossnroller's picture

Just the sorts of suggestions I was after. It's really illuminating to learn of the sorts of things you guys have on open sandwiches. Our countries have much in common, but there are still plenty of differences to keep things interesting, too!

you could tweak your chicken/cranberry combo slightly and sub cream cheese for the butter.

Yep - do that sometimes. Nice. And slightly healthier!  Re your turkey breast suggestion: that's a bit problematic here. We do get that compressed stuff at delis, but quality turket breast is expensive and you have to go chasing it a bit. We don't often have roast turkey at home, so seldom have the after-roast carcass to pick at as I guess you do quite routinely.

Like that 'Blue Plate Special'. Not something I'd do for myself at lunch, probably, but sounds good.

Fried egg sanger: now yer talkin'. On the list!

Hmm, the peanut butter/jam/cheese/Miracle Whip etc combo is not for me. Cultural differences at play there, I suspect!

Ta for the sub ingredients - plenty to choose from there.

Head cheese: See peanut butter combo comment - although, this is probably more a subjective thing than a cultural difference. I hated brawn as a kid, and haven't eaten it since. Brawn is what we call head cheese, I think? Or maybe I'm on the wrong page with this...?

Anyway, appreciate your input.


pmccool's picture


I had to look up brawn (the food, that is) and yes, it sounds a lot like head cheese.  Probably infinite variations on seasoning, etc., but same basic concept.  

Although you can't call it a topping, have you noticed how the taste of bread changes completely when you eat it outdoors, instead of indoors?  I've no idea what's at play but the things going on in one's mouth are radically different.

My all-time favorite topping is simply butter.  Not far behind that is a drizzle of honey.  

When the tomatoes are ripe, bruschetta is every bit as good as you note.  Or its sibling, the BLT (bacon/lettuce/tomato) sandwich.  That is generally a closed sandwich made with toasted bread and a smear of mayo.  For that matter, a sturdy bread, sliced ripe tomato, some mayonnaise, and freshly cracked black pepper get along famously, too.

In thinking about this, I realize that my people weren't open face sandwich people.  No.  They liked big, hefty sandwiches that with meaty fillings tucked between thick slabs of bread that could be gripped firmly in both hands.   As do I, even now.  In spite of that, I remember an open-face sandwich, more of a hors d'oeuvre, really, that involved finely chopped mushroom, sausage, cheese and, um, something else, I think, that were assembled on thinly sliced rye and chucked under the broiler until bubbly.  Very good, but more than a little fussy to put together.

Thanks for bringing up the topic.


rossnroller's picture

What an interesting observation, Paul, on bread flavour changing according to whether you're eating outdoors or in! I haven't noticed that, possibly because I rarely eat bread outside. I've certainly noticed that the flavour of beer is different outdoors (not as good!), so why not bread? First fine day I'll put it to the test (we have some heavy rain at long, long last).

I completely agree re butter being number 1 and honey number 2 (on a slice of bread with butter heh heh). That's why those toppings are an integral part of my quality assessment for a new bread.

Oh yeah, BLT is a classic. Only reason I don't have that as part of my lunch routine is that I'm trying to curtail my bacon consumption!

Like you, I was a 'closed' sandwich man...but in my case I changed once I started baking my own SD. That's one of several big changes in my approach to bread. Another is appreciating the flavour development as a loaf matures the day after the bake. I used to regard bread older than a day as suitable for toast only.

Strange that you mention that mushroom/sausage/cheese filling. I came across something like that online a couple of days ago and mentally marked it down to try, but I'm buggered if I can find it now. Anyone else find that the web has an amnesic quality about it (how's that for shifting responsibility)?


GSnyde's picture


I always try the bread plain first,  no matter what type of bread.  As for the toppings that best complement a bread, it depends a lot on the type of bread.  For straight sourdough (less than 25% whole grain), nothing beats some tasty--but not overpowering--cheese, like sharp Cheddar or Jarlsberg.  Once it's a few days old, I like to toast it and smear it with peanut butter and jam, or make grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

For fresh Whole Wheat or Rye, cream cheese is my favorite, sometimes with jam.  And for a staling rye, nothing beats grilled kosher salami and cheese.




rossnroller's picture

Especially your point about the toppings depending on the type of bread.

Can't comment on kosher salami and cheese. We generally steer clear of salami - not because I don't like it, but to minimise processed meats in our diet. Suppose I prefer ham and prosciutto (not to mention bacon, which I have to admit I find irresistable). If something has to give, for me it's gotta be salami. Curious now, though, after your comment. My partner won't be in it, but I think I'm gonna have to check out that salami/cheese/rye combo. I can imagine it's good, but fantasy falls short in this instance!

Whatever, it's not about me. I intended the thread to be an opportunity to share ideas on toppings for the benefit of all who, like me, might be looking for ideas and inspiration. I went into some detail initially about my favourites as a possible contribution to others, and to set a precedent for the rest of the thread. Glad to have your response, Glenn, and Paul's, but I fear I didn't frame the opening post as well as I could have. I didn't mean the thread to comprise people's suggestions and my reactions to them. Rather, I was seeking to initiate a general discussion on toppings, where I was just part of the crowd, and not the one people were directing their comments to. Shoulda thought out the initial post more thoroughly. I'm mostly just curious about the toppings others like, whether they are similar to mine, or Paul's, or Glenn's...or different.

Urchina's picture

Here are some of our favorite sandwich toppings, all of which go quite well with SD:

1. Ripe fresh avocado, salt & pepper, sliced ripe tomato, and a little swiss cheese. Heaven. 

2. Hummus (pureed chickpeas with tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and thinly sliced cucumber. 

3. Sharp cheddar melted over sliced apple and thinly sliced onions. 

4. With day-old bread, we make two standard dishes: One is panzanella, but BLT-style. Brush the cut bread with olive oil and toast in the oven until crunchy but not dry. Toss with fresh tomatoes, crisp and crumbled bacon, romaine lettuce (or butter lettuce) and a vinaigrette dressing. Very good. 

5. The other standard day-old bread dish we make is Sopa de Ajo, Spanish Garlic-paprika soup. Basically you take five or six cloves of garlic, lightly chop them, sautee them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, add some paprika (we like smoked paprika), then add good-quality chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes. Poach an egg for each person in the broth, then pour the broth with garlic and egg into bowls containing the day-old bread, torn into chunks. Delightful comfort food and especially good for when you've had a cold. 

6. Final favorite open-faced sandwich: Butter the bread lightly, then layer with thin-sliced ham (off the bone is best), shaved sauteed onions, ortega chile (mild green chiles like Anaheim, roasted until soft, peeled and seeded) and then top it all off with Monterey Jack cheese. Melt under the broiler or in oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. So good!


rossnroller's picture

I've tried a few of those combos, or similar, but never thought of spreading hummus on bread. I imagine that goes well with the cucumber giving it a fresh lift.

Cheese and onions are a natural, but with sliced apple? That's a new one for me - not sure I'll be into that, but one way to find out!

Your panzanella is nothing like the one I make, but it sounds yum. On the list!  And ditto the Sopa de Ajo. Just the thing for a nice winter lunch treat, by the sound of it!


caraway's picture

Spread a nice layer of cream cheese, add a few thinly sliced sweet onions atop the sardines on lightly toasted SD.  Yum


rossnroller's picture

Thanks for your contribution. Can't go wrong with that combo!


moma's picture


Why not try tuna and beans?

A nice slice of (italian) bread with arugula and canned tuna in dressing (tossed in a dollop of greek youghurt, canelloni beans, capers, red onion, salt and pepper to taste). This is a top seller at my local Diner and it is - IMO - to die for!

If any leftover tuna in dressing, it makes a nice work lunch on a bed of salat.

rossnroller's picture

Sounds nice!