SOLDIERS ON PARADE
It was the usual spring weekday breakfast – soft boiled egg; soldiers + unsalted butter; coffee; blood orange juice (freshly squeezed, naturally) – and I started mulling over the question of soldiers – what is the proper bread out of which to make them? White or brown, sir Sourdough or plain? Rye or whole meal? Soda or risen?
I make and eat only one bread, Auntie Mary’s Super Soda Bread, about which I’ve written before, I think. It makes top-notch toast. There’s nothing better, in my view, for carrying a head of unsalted butter topped with jam or marmalade. Honey is another matter. But for soldiers for dipping into the brilliant yellow yoke of the sublime eggs I get at the Newark Farm stall at Stroud Farmer’s Market? Hmm.
I tasted them against some soldiers made from the Pain de Campagne from the equally local Hobbs Bakery, also decorated at the point of impact with a curl of unsalted butter.
As a result of this highly scientific process I have come to the following conclusions:
1. As a general principle, the more flavoured the bread, the less suitable it is as a vehicle for molten egg yolk.
2. The lighter, crisper (never crispy) crunch of white toast is more suited to egg dipping than the denser, more tightly knit texture of brown toast of whatever provenance.
3. The more neutral, wheaty flavour of white toast, with a hint of caramel marries with rich, creamy butteriness of a fine egg yolk better than toasts made with the more assertive breads,
4. Therefore, out go sourdoughs, ryes, spelts and other high-health, fashionable breads.
5. The right proportions for soldiers are 1cm thick x 2cm wide x 8cm long.
I think the same is probably true of scrambled egg, although the more fragile surface of white toast goes soggier more quickly than tougher brown toast, and therefore has to be eaten instantly.