Who on earth wouldn’t like a warm toast on one hand, the butter smothering its entire face melting nicely for a true seeping of flavors deep within, and a cup of equally nice, steaming cuppa to make their morning and therefore their day? Or who wouldn’t fancy a slice of fruitcake slathered with jam made up of the finest and juiciest of fresh fruits as a healthy indulgence in the middle of the day? There indeed is something about pairing foods, specifically topping them of with jams and preserves and pickles, or butter and margarine, or marmalade and sauces, for a world of palegg harbours such emotions that only perhaps the Norwegians can perceive in all their warmth.
But while we all have buttered our breads and ‘jammed’ our cookies and spiced up our rotis with chutneys and achaars while honeying them all, how about being a bit more specific and seeking deliciousness in exclusives instead? Since the world abounds in a range of spreads, each capable of lending our experience of the toast a dimension more than the routine bread and butter dynamics now in static motion, we sure need to go wayward at times and explore the many options available to us. And here we are, doing just that, curating a spread of spreads that is sure to leave your taste buds and you asking for more-
Dulce de Leche
Stemming from a combination that sounds as basic as milk and sugar, dulce de leche is however a spread extraordinaire. Spanish for ‘candy of milk’, this sweet delight from Latin America is made by heating together sugar and milk slowly for a long time to arrive at its characteristic spreadable, sauce like consistency that tastes heavenly. In its rich color as well as in flavour, dulce de leche is just the perfect topping for crepes or toasts while also enjoying popularity as a filling of decadent desserts and sweet dishes. Often called Mexican caramel, but only better than it, because milk based caramel ekes out its water based counterpart by way more scoops, any day on earth!
A spread that is delicious, healthy and pretty, how can guacamole not command worldwide popularity? Developed in Mexico as an avocado based dip, or spread, guacamole, or more literally, avocado sauce is indeed made from ripe avocados, mashed with sea salt and flavoured with lime juice, cilantro, and jalapeños. Often sour cream, tomatoes, basil or peas are added to make regional variants of this spread, that pairs particularly well with tacos. Of course, bread suits it just fine as well, making for a rather interesting and guilt free way of enjoying your breakfast spread and making it worthy of those food snaps as well.
One of the more ‘modern’ food spreads in its comparatively recent origin, cookie butter is unlike any other topping that you would have expected to eat your bread with. With speculoos cookie crumbs as its primary ingredient and its name already making evident the cookie connection, there’s no doubt just how delicious this one rather ‘distinguished’ butter would be.
Combined with butter, flour and sugar until it achieves a consistency pasty enough to be spreadable, cookie butter’s utterly versatile characteristics with both the cookie and the butter included makes it also a component of baking in some recipes. Often used as a substitute for various nut butters and even replacing chocolate spreads at times, cookie butter is even more versatile in its ready to eat use. Apart from toasts, this particular mushy substance sits also well on cookies and bars and can also be used a dip for your fruits or to top up waffles and pancakes and so on and so forth.
A dish with a global reputation and also a nutrient laced component of the culinary world, hummus is a Middle Eastern spread or dip even when it can be wholesome in itself as well. With chickpeas being the primary ingredient of hummus, from which it also derives its name, this is a dip that is also as famous for incorporating within its realm another equally favorite condiment- tahini or sesame paste. Flavoured with lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and a few herbs, though allowing for regional variations, the tangy tasting hummus might not be traditionally used a spread, used instead for dipping pita bread in but today, hummus toast have emerged to be as popular worldwide.
In its self explanatory name, marshmallow creme already sounds like the dream stuff spreads should be made of. The all time favorite marshmallows make for a heavenly spread in the extra creamy texture and its softness and fluffiness that goes so delightfully on just about anything you care to put it on. Light and fluffy in texture, this is a spread that very well incorporates the flavour of marshmallows, deriving from its molten form and surprisingly, dates back in origin to at least the beginning of the 20th century.
Unique in being not just a spread but also capable of interpretation as a whole dish in itself, the Norwegian preparation of gomme is a food that gets as diversive as it can. A delightful bite of traditions, gomme is a form of spreadable sweet cheese made by cooking down fresh milk -curds and whey that can go on top of bread slices or waffles. More traditionally, the soft Norwegian flatbread lefse is what is eaten spread with some of this equally soft, brownish colored mass of sweetness. But cook it in milk along with with some oat grain or rice and gomme can be a delicious porridge, or served as dessert in other exquisite flavors.
The Finnish term for egg butter, munavoi is a rather unique spread that finds place of prominence in the culinary realms of Finland and Estonia. Combining whipped butter with chopped hard boiled eggs, this is a spread that is characterised by the coarse chunky quotient of its egg chunks and the mild flavour of the butter. Lightly seasoned with some salt and pepper, Finland eats its native Munavoi spread over bread or on hot Karelian pastries while the Estonians savor it over some traditional leib or dark rye bread, typically as part of their Easter Sunday meal.
Most commonly attributed to Turkey even when there exist variations of it all over the world, kaymak is one of the most decadently luxurious of spreads that makes every experience of the culinary a class apart. Much like clotted cream, this creamy dairy produce that stems from the milk of water buffaloes, particularly those fed a diet of poppy seeds residue, is a luscious traditional delicacy that sees a time intensive mode of preparation lending it its characteristic smoothness and irresistible deliciousness.
Kaymak is produced by boiling the milk slowly and then simmering it for at least a couple of hours, after which it is skimmed and left to chill and ferment for several hours or even a few days. Particularly divine when it is served as a combination generously doused in honey, in which case it is colloquially termed bal kaymak. Also often served alongside a range of desserts, most prominently the baklava, the creamy richness and slight tang of the kaymak, makes its pairing with all things sweet a match made in heaven. Equally indulgent is a serving of this thick pound of buttery cream spread across a slice of humble bread or as a topping on droolworthy cakes and pastries and stuff, making it indeed the most scrumptious spread ever!
Apart from its sweet leanings that which finds expression also beyond Turkey in countries like Afghanistan, or in Iraq where it is spread on a type of traditional pastry bread called kahi along with date syrup or honey, kaymak is made part of savoury dishes in the Balkans. Such traditional dishes like pljeskavica sa kajmakom (hamburger patty topped with melted kajmak), as well as ribić u kajmaku (beef shank, simmered with kajmak) and also the foam of a famed cup of Turkish coffee all owe their lip smacking deliciousness to this sinful spread of the kaymak.
A French delight, specifically a Provencal one, tapenade is a spread that smacks predominantly of olives. Puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, and anchovies are mixed together with a generous amount of olive oil to make for a topping that goes really well with crusty bread. Flavoured often with garlic, herbs, lemon juice, or brandy, tapenade makes for a really fragrant and flavourful spread. Even in its predominant association with olives though, tapenade derives its name from the Provencal word for another of its primary ingredient capers, that which goes by the name tapenas. Like the ambiguity in its name, the tapenade tends also to be as ambiguous in its origin- a favorite throughout France but originating instead in Italy.
A cheese spread from the region of Bavaria in Germany, obatzda is prepared from a combination of aged soft cheese and birth. The ratio followed is usually two thirds of cheese to one third butter, seasoned with some sweet or hot paprika powder, salt and pepper. Additionally such ingredients as onions, garlic, radish, cloves and caraway also make their way into the obatzda, some versions of which includes also beer, wine or milk based products. A classic Bavarian biergarten food, obatzda is usually eaten spread on bread or pretzels. In its assortment of ingredients that are strikingly different from each other, obatzda resides in a flavour rather complex, but nonetheless delicious.
In its very name, moretum might be a misnomer since it roughly translates to salad in Latin. But this simple recipe of the ancient Romans is indeed very much a spread, based on equally ordinary ingredients of cheese, herbs and the like for a mouthful of extraordinary taste. Interestingly, despite its context lost in translation, the very term ‘moretum’ refers instead to the manner in which the spread is prepared- by pounding it the classic old way in a mortar. Considered very similar to the modern day rage that goes by the name pesto, moretum is a rather simplistic pounding together of garlic and salt and Romano cheese along with some coriander leaves and dill and other optional herbs and spices as well as nuts, combined together with some olive oil for a cheesy spreadable paste and eaten again the old way with some bread.
Call it a spread or a salad, identify it as Turkish or Bulgarian, relish it as a twin blast of its eggplant and garlic flavour, embrace it for its taste that ranges from light and sweet to hot and peppery, everything about the Kyopolou is embedded in duality. Apart from its principal ingredients, regional variations see the introduction of peppers and tomatoes and onions and herbs into the mix, even as ground walnuts also make for an oft encountered addition. Typically an appetizer but also the main dish in Bulgaria in the summer months when its ingredients are readily available, kyopolou does particularly well spread on bread or crackers even though you can directly eat it as well from the glass jar in which avatar it emerges during the winters.
If Nutella is the only entity that you relate to a chocolate hazelnut spread, then boy you are missing out on another similar but wholly different world of deliciousness! Preceding its more popular counterpart by more than a century, this Italian creation of the times of Napoleon Bonaparte tops off its own slice of history. As a means of converting little amounts of chocolate into considerably more of it by mixing it with hazelnut paste, Gianduja came to be invented in Turin, Piedmont and is now available as a spread or as a block of solid mass. Denser than Nutella and more delicate in taste, giandujas do well as a spread over toast, cookies and cakes, even when it tastes just as delicious right out of the jar!
Another spicy spread, this time from North Macedonia, malidzano is a rather flavourful pairing with bread and rests in its primary ingredient of eggplants and bell peppers to deliver that punch to your meal. The use of pureed red or green peppers lend Malidzano its derivative color, even as its name derives from the Italian word for eggplant, melanzane. With flavourings of salt, pepper, garlic, oil and mustard, this rather pungent spread is typically served on bread with also a piece of white cheese on the side, for perhaps a more balanced experience of the flavours.
Another cheese based spread of deliciousness, Tirokafteri is the Greek stemming of what is also a rather spicy dip, translating even in its very name to ‘spicy cheese’. Mostly prepared with feta cheese, though other such similar soft, white cheeses also may be used, this creamy spread also makes use of ample hot peppers and roasted peppers, seasoned with a variety of dressings and condiments like olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt, or oregano. Typically eaten as part of a mezze platter, or accompanied by warm pita bread, this traditional Greek churning is also known as ktipiti and incorporates quite a few regional tweaks and twists.