– Crumbles, Crunchies, Sprinkles: just hearing the name makes your mouth water. Toppings give simple dishes that special something. Most of the time they still look good.
The toppings are called that because they come “on top”. And since there is no top without bottom, this interaction is the secret of good toppings.
From soup appetizer to dessert, additions like croutons, roast beef, or chutney complement the dish and often create an interesting flavor contrast.
“A dressing adds extra flavor, often in a highly concentrated form,” says cookbook author Bettina Matthaei (“Dresses. The Perfect Finish for Your Favorite Dishes”). “If the entire taste experience includes all tastes, i.e. sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy, then we experience it as complete, successful and satisfying. Such a meal just makes you happy.”
Salty and Spicy: Caramelized Pistachios
For example, caramelized candy goes well with savory dishes. Bettina Matthaei’s salty and spicy caramelized pistachios, on the other hand, taste great in soups, salads, or sprinkled over lamb fillets. Plus, they’re quick to make: sift 5g of icing sugar into a pan and melt. When the sugar is liquid, remove the saucepan from the heat and add 35 g green pistachios. Quickly twist, salt and pepper, voila!
It can also be a contrast of consistencies. A smooth chutney goes well with a crunchy tarte flambée or something crispy with a mousse au chocolat. “Crème brûlée only becomes exciting when you pierce the crispy caramelized sugar layer with a spoon and reveal the delicate cream beneath,” enthuses topping expert Matthaei.
Breaded Feta Cubes, Cinnamon Croutons, Sprinkles
Crispy and smooth in one is also possible with the topping itself. How about this, for example: feta cubes in a layer of panko, the type of Asian breadcrumbs. To do this, stir the flour and milk until smooth, first add the cubes, then add the panko and fry in oil over high heat.
A simple classic is croutons, which in a wide variety of variations go well with almost any meal. “Anyone who can fry fried eggs can also make croutons,” says Bettina Matthaei. For their cinnamon croutons, toasted bread slices are crusted off, diced, and dipped in melted butter with salt and cinnamon. Spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
The so-called sprinkles are also one of Matthaei’s favorite ingredients. Its dusting of hazelnuts and cocoa goes as well with savory dishes such as game or veal as with sweet desserts. The ingredients: toasted and chopped hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, orange zest removed with a grater, salt and pepper.
Flavors made from honey red onions.
Many dressings can be made while cooking. Honey red onions, for example, where the onion strips are steamed until soft and then drizzled with a little honey and steamed for a few more minutes. Stir occasionally in between. Seasoned with cumin, sumac and salt, it is a perfect complement to meat dishes.
It is eaten with the eyes, this rule is applied once again in times of Instagram and company. Those who put their food online usually don’t want to do without the photogenic extras. “The ingredients visually enhance the food,” says food photographer Silvio Knezevic. It could be the icing on Hawaiian toast or the grilled onions on your steak.
Topping gives dishes a new level of structure
“A topping gives it a new level of structure, for example baking peas in the soup,” says the trained chef. His insider tip comes from classic cooking: “Gremolata, a mix of minced lemon zest, garlic and parsley, is used in stews like goulash. It enhances everything so much, it’s absolutely delicious,” he enthuses. Before chopping, peel the lemon skin finely without the white part. “The stews have quite a strong flavor and lack the aromatic peak. This fresh mix brings that.”
Unlike fried or caramelized ingredients, these fresh ingredients are also low in calories. In this way, the added value does not hit the hips, but remains a plus for the eyes and the palate.
Bettina Matthaei: “Toppings. The perfect finish for your favorite dishes”, Becker Joest Volk Verlag, 176 pages, EUR 29.95, ISBN 978-3-95453-239-1.