The magic of ordinary
And the magic doesn’t stop there. When the bread hits the oven, proteins and sugars in the dough transform in what is maybe my favourite chemical reaction of all time: the Maillard reaction. It gives that lovely, slightly chewy, golden top to a loaf of bread, as well as all these things: the rich, sweet, browned layer on the very outside of a steak cooked to perfection; the soft upper edge of a Madeira cake, that melts on your tongue; onions collapsing into a caramelised, sticky tangle in a butter-slicked pan; dulce de leche, scooped by a finger straight from the jar; the chewy, salty, mahogany crust of a fresh-baked pretzel. This complex, wondrous chemistry even makes an appearance at the breakfast table. While your eyes are still heavy with sleep, it’s there in your mug of coffee, your breakfast cereals, and even in the pleasure of a slice of perfectly golden-brown, buttered toast. It doesn’t matter how culinarily skilled (or otherwise) you are – if you can make toast, you’re a modern-day alchemist.