Toast with the Most

Giulietta Carrelli, owner of Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club in San Francisco, struggled to decide which baked goods to serve in her coffee shop when it opened in 2007. She couldn’t afford the slim profit margins and high waste associated with traditional offerings like muffins and scones. “I talked to my mom,” Carrelli says. “She said, ‘Remember all the times you had a bad day and we made you cinnamon toast?’”

So Carrelli began serving thick slabs of artisan-made white bread, slathered with butter and topped with cinnamon-sugar. Customers ate it up. “Toast is the reason [my business] made it,” says Carrelli, who now sells toast topped with peanut butter and honey swirled to resemble spider webs and waves. Think latte designs on bread.

Toast turned out to be the perfect way to transform a staple into a lux treat, for Carrelli and for bakers and chefs nationwide. Many have embraced toast as a platform to show off creative chops—Milque Toast Bar in St. Louis goes farm-to-table, topping toast with produce from nearby community gardens. Offerings include smørrebrød—Danish open-faced rye bread sandwiches—topped with mushrooms, goat cheese, truffle oil and herbs, and avocado, tomato and Havarti with Sriracha aioli and watercress.

There’s something deeply practical about the humble product as well—bread is in every bakery, along with ingredients that could easily be transformed into a trendy toast topper. Put pantry staples to work by experimenting with different combinations: blueberries and ricotta cheese for a fresh take, or almond butter and green apples.

With few overhead costs and a growing customer base, toast is an investment that almost guarantees reward.