Prima, Manna, Gardenia, and Bread Pan: Our Grocery-Bought Buttered Toast BattleApril 13, 2018
Crunchy, just a tad rich and a tad sweet, and often paired with coffee, buttered toast occupies a special place in the Filipino food cupboard. Likely created to avoid wastage, these treats are comprised of bread slices spread with butter (or margarine, for affordability) and sugar then toasted lightly to crisp up evenly (not unlike Italian biscotti). As a popular type of biskwit—the special category of Filipino-loved baked delicacies consumed as snacks—they are a hit across ages, sold to this day by both commercial-scale and independent brands. But among those we’d found at the supermarket, who makes the winning toast?
La Pacita Prima Toast, Classic
Format: Each piece of this classic brand’s version goes by a most adorable, shrunken-down bread slice-shaped form, with a “crust” that goes around its entire perimeter.
Texture: The mini-toast format means you get more crust per piece, and the said borders can feel overly dense. But as you work your way toward the center, you get a crumb that’s still tight and dense yet short and easy to bite into (think halfway between bread and pound cake, similar to bread of the monay or putok sort). Even with newly-opened packages though, there is an overarching staleness. It’s fine as a coffee-dipper—but for eating straight up, we couldn’t help but wish they were crunchier.
Taste: While the bread underneath already has a slightly sweet, egg or milk-enriched taste to it amidst the mild yeastiness—in one of our tasters’ words, “lasang [galing] panaderya” (“it tastes like [it came from] the panaderya“, panaderya referring to the small bakeries found in Filipino neighborhoods)—toppings are kept to a minimum. Each tiny toast is coated in margarine (as per the ingredient list) and sugar on only one side, keeping the resulting barely sweet and just rich enough to be filling without being cloying.
Laura’s Manna Buttered Toast
Format: Though about the same size as Prima’s, each piece of Manna’s appears to be comprised of halves of one bigger piece—meaning only three sides are bordered with crust.
Texture: Like Prima’s, Manna’s also carries a tight-crumbed quality to it, giving it ample structure, but to a lesser degree. Crispier and crunchier, it’s more satisfying to chew on. Bonus points for how it retains its integrity when dipped into hot coffee.
Taste: For the base, Manna goes for bread that still carries a slight sweetness but is more neutral-tasting than Prima’s and more akin to a dense Filipino-style Tasty bread. With margarine and sugar on both sides, you get a more pronounced sweetness and (quasi-) buttery sensation—but still at a well balanced amount relative to the bread.
Format: Toasties is similar to Manna’s in that each “Toastie” is comprised of half of one bigger piece and is bordered with crust on just three out of four sides. It’s longer though, having come from a bigger whole piece (which is likely a slice of this bread brand’s signature white loaf).
Texture: As opposed to the previous two brands, Gardenia’s toast is carries a more crisp but airy consistency. Though not the most ideal for dipping—lest you like your toast soggy—it’s the easiest to bite on and enjoy, carrying a satisfying crunchiness but still being light overall.
Taste: The sensation of butter (or margarine, given that—though butter does appear in the ingredient list—it only does so toward the end and comes after margarine) and sugar is more prominent on this brand, possibly due to how the lighter base allows for easier soaking of the said toppings. It almost crosses over to dessert category (one of our tasters swears by this toast in place of wafers with ice cream), but still does not overwhelm with sweetness. Worth noting is the hint of salt, that both amps up the “butter”-sugar flavor duo while balancing them out.
Oishi Bread Pan, Buttered Toast
Format: This contender immediately stands out from the crowd with its bite-sized, miniaturized diagonally-cut baguette slice-esque form. Unlike the other brands on our list, (though like the rest of the Oishi Bread Pan line), they’re marketed more along the realm of chips (to be snacked on casually) than biskwit.
Texture: Each piece is even lighter, crisper, and airier than Gardenia’s—you can just about pop it in your mouth one after the other. It also crackles down as you chew in a most oddly satisfying way.
Taste: Though we’re fans of the texture, it’s on flavor that this brand falls short. Save for a whisper of a taste we’d best describe as slightly savory and oily, there’s barely any butteriness (real or otherwise). There’s a touch of sweetness, but it hardly makes an impact—you might not even identify it to be buttered toast-themed.
The Verdict: Gardenia
Compared just for what they are, Gardenia’s richer, sweeter (but not overly-sweet) taste and lighter consistency makes it a top hit with the team. With respect to being akin to the more old-fashioned, minimalist sort of buttered toast however—though we understand that nostalgia might drive some to prefer Prima—for us, it’s Manna’s dense-but-crunchy, just-sweet-and-buttery-enough version that works best. Prima is still great if you’re primary after dipping into coffee (or just not into sweet things). And if you’re one to go for the novel and to live on the edge, try Oishi’s pop-in-your-mouth, ultra snack-worthy take.