My friend’s mom is a self-described Bread Head, meaning she makes it a point to hit up the best bakeries in Taipei, Tokyo, Paris, and anywhere else she travels to. The two of them taught me how to successfully bring back your favorite pastries: buy plastic wrap, get all your favorites from each spot, and wrap them tightly before stashing in your carry on. Then when you get home, immediately freeze them. So when you’re craving that cheese-and-guava tart from Mexico City or that pistachio l’escargot from Paris, you don’t need to sadly scroll through your iPhone photos and pretend to taste it, you can just pop one in the oven and reheat it.
In the quest to find the best way to revive pastries back to its freshly baked state, Bread Head Mom told me there was a toaster she was willing to bring back from Asia because it was that perfect. It’s by Balmuda, and it used to only be available in Japan or Korea. Anecdotally I’ve heard about obsessive croissant lovers flying to Tokyo or Seoul to buy the appliance. They’ll even get electrical adaptors to ensure it works in their home country. Bread Head Mom was willing to lug the entire setup in her suitcase until she discovered that it was finally being sold stateside.
Given her stamp of approval, I had to see what the hype was about. I put it to the test with a loaf of milk bread that had been languishing in our freezer for about two months. There was a coat of frost on it, mainly because I didn’t wrap it properly (sorry Bread Head Mom!) and I didn’t have high hopes. At best it would be the consistency of a stale crouton. My husband pried two pieces apart, placed it on the tray, followed instructions and hoped for the best.
Balmuda’s cult status among bread obsessives is due to its steam cooking method and precise cooking settings. It comes with a tiny cup (that you’d mistaken for a toy) which measures out 5cc of water. Dibble those few drops into the slot at the top of the toaster and it’s enough to get your bread fluffy and soft.
The toaster has five settings: sandwich bread, artisan bread (aka thicker loaves like sourdough), pizza, pastry, and oven mode. Depending on what you’re reheating, there’s an optimal time for each (anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes). If you’re looking to use it to bake, oven mode goes up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Anyway, back to my sad frost bitten bread. We poured water into the slot at the top of the oven, set the knob to the first bread setting, and gave it 3 minutes to transform our toast. You’ll hear the steam gurgle and then the last 30 seconds, the magic happens. The coils glow and your bread suddenly turns the perfect shade of golden brown. While it toasted, our apartment filled with the smell of freshly baked, buttery milk bread and when we bit in, it really did taste like we had just bought it.
At $320, it’s not exactly cheap. But if you’re a fellow pastry hoarder, this thing will change your life. Since getting the Balmuda, we’ve revived days old croissants, weeks old garlic bread, and even cheap frozen pizza. And yes, we run to watch the last 30 seconds every time -- quarantine entertainment doesn’t get better than browning bread.
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