As you can imagine, we’ve tried and tested a multitude of professional kitchen appliances and gadgets over the many years of cooking at home in a professional kitchen, writing our food and travel website, coauthoring a cookbook with a chef, and working with many chefs in their restaurants. We’ve definitely found our favorite items that work the best and pull them out to use over and over again, passing over other costly and less effective pieces. It’s kind of like returning to that pair of old worn out shoes in your clothes closet…you use what you love.
When we started working with Wolf Gourmet last year and reviewed their new line of cookware and then their high speed blender, we put their products to the test in our kitchen to see how they would compare to the competition and our favorite tried and true kitchen equipment and appliances.
What we found is that some of those time tested and most-loved pieces of our cookware took a culinary backseat and were stored away in the drawers while the Wolf Gourmet cookware made it to the hooks on the pegboard in the kitchen. And on the counter, the Wolf High Performance Blender upstaged the high end Vitamix that was its predecessor. Frankly, we were surprised.
When Wolf Gourmet once again asked us to review an appliance, their 4-slice toaster and a bread knife from their cutlery collection, we of course said yes. The toaster we have is a 2-slice toaster (that is also a high performance professional product with several toasting options), but we were interested in Wolf’s larger capacity, Keep Warm feature, and overall performance.
Here’s a video using the Wolf 4-slice toaster to prepare the Best French Toast (recipe below):
The Wolf 4-Slice Toaster
In addition to complimenting your Wolf range and oven with its stainless steel design and signature red knobs (if you own Wolf appliances), the other highlights of this toaster are: it’s a commercial (professional) grade appliance that’s durable and built-to-last; it has a sleek and modern design; and is user friendly with simple-to-use directions and controls. Here are the other features listed on the Williams-Sonoma website for the Wolf Gourmet 4-Slice Toaster:
- Shade selector dials with seven settings allows for precise control of toast color from light to dark.
- Independent controls for each pair of slots.
- Extra-wide slots accommodate a full variety of breads.
- Self-centering bread guides toast thin or thick slices to ensure even browning.
You might think it’s a simple task to test and review a toaster, but it’s not. We toasted (and consumed) a lot of bakery items to see how this toaster handled the various settings and the different types of bread it’s designed to prepare, including: regular commercially prepared and sliced bread from a fresh loaf (not frozen) and English muffins; sliced fresh bagels; and English muffins, bagels, toast, or other bread products that were frozen. We were also tested the Keep Warm setting that will hold toast until the rest of your food is prepared and ready to be served.
The test results are in
As we read in the manual that comes with the toaster and have discovered in all of our testing, how evenly your breads or bakery items toast has everything to do with all the variations that occur in baked goods. Denser breads take longer to toast; sweet or fruited breads will toast faster due to their high sugar content; day-old bread will toast quicker than fresh bread; room temperature bread will toast faster than bread that’s been refrigerated; English muffins cut with a knife will toast more evenly than those split with a fork; and moisture content will impact how evenly and long it takes to toast everything. This was the most important concern for us as two of the baked goods we were working with (an artisan loaf and bagels) were prepared in small local bakeries. That meant more variability in moisture content, richer ingredients, and lack of uniformity in size. Normally, most of us just prepare toast and don’t think so much about the science behind it.
Thanks to the special feature of the Wolf toaster that centers the slices of bread (no matter the thickness), almost everything toasted very evenly. The only variation we found was with local bakery goods, but we understood why. The shape of the loaf of bread was unique (and very tall), the moisture level (including a lot of butter) was higher, and the bread was much denser. In addition, we had to lay the tall pieces of this European loaf of artisan bread horizontally in the toaster so that all of the bread was within the heating element.
We also found a little variation when we toasted bagels from a local bagel shop. They are also artisan made and hand-shaped, boiled in water, and then baked, so each bagel is unique in shape and not uniform in size as those you would find in the grocery store bins in the bakery. We also tried a wide selection of flavors. After preparing a lot of bagels, we found the bagel setting of the toaster produces the perfect combination of texture and crunch with the toasty cut side and the soft and chewy warm outside of the bagel. You can’t achieve this with a regular toaster or toaster oven. They are even better when topped with whipped cream cheese and homemade strawberry freezer jam.
If you only have frozen bread or bagels and are interested in toasting them, no problem. Just hit the “Frozen” setting and turn the red dial to your normally desired setting for doneness. The Wolf toaster will thaw the item and perfectly toast frozen baked goods. And if you prepare your toast too soon and need to keep it warm for a few minutes while you finish cooking your eggs and bacon, push the “Keep Warm” button while the toast is down and it will stay warm until you’re ready to serve it.
The other important thing to know is that when you’re toasting just one slice of bread in this toaster, the amount of browning may vary as the toaster is optimized to toast either two slices on the same side or all four slices at one time. Each side (two slices) is controlled by its own settings and handle. A 4-slice toaster is wonderful to have when you you’re serving a large hungry group of kids in the morning or guests during breakfast. If you have a larger family, of course, this is an ideal choice for a toaster. But, even for the two of us, the 4-slice toaster is perfect for two bagels or English muffins so that we can eat at the same time.
The Bread Knife
As you’ll see in the photos, we used the Wolf bread knife from their cutlery collection to slice the artisan European bread purchased from the local German bakery, as well as the bagels. We previously used the bread knife on several other occasions to slice French breads and other bakery breads and found it to cut far smoother, easier, and more even slices than the Henckel bread knife we’ve owned for many years. The longer and sharp serrated blade effortlessly glides through any loaf of bread or bagel. The best way to use it is with long, smooth motions. This produces a very even cut and a perfect slice every time.
What to prepare with your toaster
In addition to toasting the basic items, like bread and bagels, we used the toaster for more creative purposes. One thing I’ve prepared using a toaster for many years is an easy grilled cheese sandwich. Why dirty a clean pan when you can make a grilled cheese with a toaster and microwave?
For a tasty variation on grilled cheese, try a Toasted Hot Mess, using Phickle’s Brand Hot Mess cheese spread. Made with aged white cheddar and their pickled jalapeños, this is a tasty and spicy variation of Pimento Cheese. All you need to do is toast the bread, spread the Hot Mess on one side of the bread, put the slices together, and then place the sandwich on a paper towel on a plate (the paper towel absorbs the moisture) and microwave for about 15 seconds or until the cheese begins to melt (this will depend on the strength of your microwave oven). Slice and enjoy! And, there’s no clean-up. It’s the perfect after-school snack for hungry teenagers.
For a more involved recipe and one perfect to prepare with the Wolf Gourmet 4-Slice toaster, try this recipe for Freezer French Toast or the Best French Toast (it really is).
If you love French Toast (as much as we do) and only prepare it for special occasions (like I do), try making a batch ahead of time and then freeze it. This way you can take individual slices out of the freezer bag and enjoy them anytime. Simply pop them in the toaster, hit the “Freezer” setting and then turn the dial to 4 or 5 and thaw and toast until the slices are heated through. Think Aunt Jemima frozen French Toast, but waaay better. You can also use the Keep Warm feature to hold them until you prepare the rest of breakfast.
This version is especially delicious made with the European artisan loaf of bread and a lot of eggs in the soaking mixture. There is a nicely balanced combination of vanilla and cinnamon (and a hint of nutmeg) in the eggy mixture, which makes for a very rich custard-like French toast. Be sure when making your French Toast that you use a really good and hearty, thickly sliced day-old white bread or for another variation, try sliced Brioche bread.
Serve with fresh berries, powdered sugar, and warm maple syrup.
The Best French Toast
Use a good artisan bread for this recipe to achieve the best results. One that is dense and buttery is preferred. Use day-old thick slices and be sure to let all the egg and milk mixture absorb into the bread. You may have just a little of the mixture left over in the dish, depending on the size and thickness of your bread. Also, if desired, to be sure the egg mixture is thoroughly set (especially in the middle), after browning the French Toast in the pan, bake in the over at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. Then remove from the oven, cool, and freeze.
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch grated fresh nutmeg, to taste
- Pinch Kosher salt
- 4 slices thickly cut white or European-style artisan bread (day-old bread works best)
- 4 to 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, as needed
In a medium mixing bowl, add eggs and beat well. Whisk in milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Combine well.
Lay slices of bread in a 13×9-inch glass pan. Pour egg and milk mixture over slices, covering them well. Let them sit for 8 minutes, basting bread, especially edges, with a spoon, if necessary, to coat.
Carefully turn the slices over and make sure the egg and milk mixture is absorbing well, basting again with a spoon, as needed. Let sit for 10 minutes. Most of the egg and milk mixture should be absorbed at this point. Transfer slices to a plate.
In a 10-inch skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low to medium heat. Once butter is sizzling, add two French Toast slices, increasing heat slightly and adjusting as necessary.
Brown the first side and then flip over and brown the other side, checking to make sure the egg mixture is set in the center (it should be puffy and not runny), adding more butter as necessary so the toast doesn’t stick. The butter will brown slightly as the French Toast cooks. Repeat with the second two slices. Place cooked slices on a parchment lined sheet pan.
Note – As mentioned above, if desired, bake French Toast in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes to ensure the egg mixture is cooked through, especially if the slices are very thick and you’re not sure if it’s cooked all the way through.
Cool French Toast and place sheet pan in freezer. Once slices are frozen, remove the slices and place in a gallon freezer bag with parchment paper between the slices.
When ready to serve, place French Toast slices in the toaster with the “Frozen” button pushed and set the dial on 4 or 5. Check after the first cycle is complete and reheat longer if necessary, until the French Toast is slightly toasted and warmed through. If using taller artisan bread, lay the French Toast sideways so that it will heat through and toast evenly.
Cut slices in half, dust lightly with powdered sugar, and serve with fresh berries and warm maple syrup.
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