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We're getting to the point where a large extravagant meal just isn't so much of a reality for a lot of us any more. But a toasted cheese sandwich holds so many possibilities and still feels like something that is quite special. Some of Australia's leading cheese enthusiasts share their secret to perfecting the cheese toastie.
Olivia Sutton, Harper and Blohm, VIC
This Brunswick-based cheesemonger is all about quality over 'grammability.
Weapon: Sandwich press
Cheese: Raclette, gruyere, cheddar
"Our toasties are about the quality of the ingredients rather than a big, melting, oozy, Instagrammable thing. So we have our classic three cheese. We use Dench organic sourdough, and then we use a blend of raclette and gruyere. And then we use a cheddar. And we have not changed that since we started making it.
The rules to composing the classic toastie are: day-old bread is better. It has less moisture and it'll go crisper. Turn it 180 degrees when you cook it – your sandwich press is probably going to be different temperatures in different spots. Push it, don't squash it.
And not too much cheese. Less is more. If a little bit of cheese comes out, you just put that on top too. Butter the outside of the bread but not the inside. Nothing on the inside except cheese."
Penny Lawson, Penny's Cheese Shop, NSW
It's cheese, cheese and nothing but cheese for this Sydney cheesemonger.
Weapon: Sandwich press
Cheese: Cheddar, gruyere, raclette, scamorza, queso oaxaca, tilsit and gouda
"We do cut people off if they have more than two cheese toasties in one day. We've got a responsible service of toastie rule in the shop.
Currently we have seven cheeses in the blend. I would say the key thing is we put cheese on the inside and the outside so it's like cheese, bread, cheese, bread, cheese. We do it in several stages. I'm pretty open about how we do it, it's no big secret. And also the sheer quantity we put into a sandwich is probably not something that a home cook would do. It's like knowing how much butter goes into a mash in a restaurant.
We get our bread from Pyrmont bakery Pioik. And I add a day on that because I think stale bread is key if you're making your own cheese toastie.
And I add any of the things I want to add after I've melted the cheese. So when the cheese is hot, that's when you want to add your ham, onions, jalapenos… so it's not steamed inside the sandwich.
And you've gotta melt the cheese! If I see another picture of a cheese toastie where the cheese is in a piece … it drives me crazy. So we grate the cheese. And absolutely, on no account, should anybody EVER add mayonnaise to a cheese toastie. That is a rule for life. People are better than this."
Analiese Gregory, chef and goat herd, Hobart
Hobart's goat-loving, cheesemaking, urchin-diving chef-adventurer shares her love of a pan-fried toastie
Weapon: Frying pan
Cheese: Creme fraiche, fromage blanc, gruyere, hard goat's cheese, gouda
Bread: Sourdough or soft white, depending on mood.
"The ultimate cheese sandwich is a multiple cheese sandwich. I always go butter on the outside – pan-fried is better – because you get a better finish on it than you do in a toasted sandwich maker or flat grill.
Always creme fraiche inside, normally bechamel as well. And then a fromage blanc, gruyere, hard goat's cheese and maybe some gouda. All the cheeses perform different functions. Some of them are good for melting and then some of them are good for flavour and don't have as great a texture when they're melted.
I like sourdough, but sometimes sourdough is just too crunchy. I also like soft, white, sandwichy, briochey bread. I guess with sourdough sometimes it becomes all about the bread, but with soft white bread it's just all about what's inside.
I have a friend who has another approach to the toasted cheese. He has a cafe and actually sells this to people – he does three different supermarket cheeses. A hard, white goat's cheese, an Australian gruyere and Australian cheddar, mixes them all together with cream cheese and puts it in the sandwich. I've done it recently and it's really good."
Cressida Cains, Pecora Dairy, NSW
The pioneer cheesemaker behind some of Australia's first unpasteurised cheeses is all about the convenience of the sandwich press.
Weapon: Sandwich press
Cheese: Alpine, soft, blue
"The toasted cheese sandwich features pretty strongly in our household. I prefer a good sourdough and one that has a reasonably dense crumb, not one that's full of holes.
I feel that while it's lovely to have a variety of cheeses, I don't tend to go too crazy with the number. I prefer a three-cheese toastie. I think it's important to have an alpine style. And by that I mean something that melts beautifully and you get that lovely cheese pull. And I then like to put a little soft cheese in there which adds a bit of creaminess and acidity, and most particularly I like a bit of blue cheese in my toasty.
Controversial, but I'm going to throw that out there. I don't butter the bread. If I'm going to do anything, I'll put a little bit of grated cheese on the top and bottom. It's all about the cheese.
Always a sandwich press a) because the clean-up is quicker and b) because it's quicker to cook. I'm all about speed so I can get back to doing what I need to do."
Jo Barrett, chef and author, VIC
The chef and recently published author of DIY magazine Give It A Go is all about texture.
Weapon: Sandwich press
Cheese: Provolone, cheddar, manchego
"I like a cheese toastie to have a little bit of acidity rather than having all that fattiness and creaminess. I've got three cheeses in my toastie. I start off with some provolone, because of its melting qualities but also its stretch. And then, a bit of a crowd-pleaser, some cheddar because of its mouthfeel. You know when you bite into a cheese toastie and it fills up your cheeks? That's cheddar. And then to cut all of that, a bit of manchego, a sheep's milk cheese that adds some funk. Combining the three of them you get that flavour but also texture.
I like sourdough – I like to fight to get into the middle. I feel like if it's all one texture it's not as satisfying, whereas if you chew on the crust that's really crunchy, it takes a bit of time and you want to get to the centre even more and it makes it even more satisfying.
I like to butter the outside of the bread and use a sandwich press, just so you can get a good amount of texture to it. If it's too squishy it's not as satisfying. I also like to add kimchi, which I know pushes it out of the realm of the basic cheese toastie, but it's so awesome as it heats up."