It's Bread Month here at The Spruce Eats. All through February, we'll be sharing stories about this important staple in all its glorious forms—from pizza to pretzels to bierocks—and the way it's made, eaten, and shared across countries and cultures.
Strawberries and cream, butter and condensed milk, Nutella and bananas—these are just a few of the condiments that often accompany the Taiwanese dessert known as brick toast. The phenomenon grew out of the country’s appetite for bread—not for breakfast or as a starter—but as a sweet treat. In recent years, it has crossed the Pacific and landed stateside in tea shops and restaurants, a welcome arrival for anyone craving a pillowy, endlessly customizable snack.
Unlike cultures in other continents, where bread is often enjoyed at the beginning to the day or as part of a meal, the focus that Taiwanese bakeries have taken with their loaves lean towards dessert, an influence that comes from Japan.
“Bread was not traditionally eaten for breakfast, but developed into a style that is soft, moist and sweet—good for dessert,” explains Katy Hui-Wen Hung, author of “A Culinary History of Taipei: Beyond Pork and Ponlai.”
Pain de mie loaves that are fluffy, soft, moist, and even a bit sweet on their own are not only the best thing since sliced bread—those features are necessary when cutting slices as thick as they do for brick toast. It’s also referred to as Shibuya honey toast, as it was popularized in that area of Tokyo during the late 1980s and is still enjoyed in karaoke bars there. Milk bread from Hokkaido or elsewhere is the perfect canvas as milk creates a velvety texture and softer crust, making it easier to brown.
One can keep their brick toast simple or dress it up to the nines, as the main components include fluffy bread, either sliced thick or as a full loaf with the center cut out into cubes, leaving the crust as a frame to hold them. Each piece is then basted with milk, sugar, and butter before it’s toasted, with its delicious texture topped to one’s desire. Condensed milk and powdered sugar would be a minimal, but delicious, way to dress this dessert. But what often makes this dish Instagram-worthy are the over-the-top toppings with a variety of cut fruits, chocolate and caramel syrups, and spots of whipped cream. Sometimes, tea shops will make a real show of their brick toast by piling it sky high, clearly meant to be photographed, then shared with friends.
A great thing about Taiwanese brick toast is that it’s easy to appreciate since it’s so easy to make. You could turn frozen bread into this magical dessert with ease and the aid of a toaster oven. It can even take a savory turn by using your own desired ingredients (ham and cheese brick toast, anyone?). However you enjoy your brick toast, the textures of this hot, buttery, fluffy dessert is one that’s sure to please carb lovers everywhere.