How to make the best ham and cheese toastie

We love a gorgeous Croque Monsieur, or as we're more likely to say here, a ham and cheese toastie.

Golden and crunchy on the edges, bursting with lashings of creamy cheese, slices of thick ham wedged between the bits of fluffy toasted bread - our mouths are watering, bellies rumbling.

So, to celebrate Bastille Day today, we asked charming French pastry chef, Guillaume Nicoli to tell us how to make the best Croque Monsieur ever.

He was making these back home with his mum in the northeast of France since the age of seven and has been baking them professionally for over 20 years - he knows his stuff.

Guillaume Nicoli in his Ponsonby cafe, Ma Cherie. Photo / Greg Bowker
Guillaume Nicoli in his Ponsonby cafe, Ma Cherie. Photo / Greg Bowker

Guillaume, the master behind the Ma Cherie baked goods and the recently opened Ponsonby cafe of the same name, said the popular sandwich is simple, with just a handful of ingredients, so dedicate the time to seeking top quality of each.

After pulling a fresh batch out of the oven for today's lunch time rush, he shares his secrets with us.

1. Get yourself some freshly baked fluffy white bread from the bakery for maximum softness.
2. Thickly sliced ham off the bone is best.
3. The most important component is the creamy, thick white, Bechamel sauce. Here's how Guillaume makes his (this is enough for a couple of sandwiches, but can also be stored in the fridge for up to a week).

Bring 500mL of full cream milk to the boil, with two pinches of salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Pour in to a bowl. In the same pot, melt 50g of butter, add 80g flour. Using a spatula, stir in to a roux for about a minute on medium heat.

Gradually add the milk back in to the rue, whisking to make a smooth, creamy sauce. Remove from the heat.

4. Assemble. "For some people maybe I am too generous on the sauce," Guillaume admits, but we beg to differ, there's no such thing.

Here's how he builds the best Croque Monsieur.

On your bottom slice of bread spread a generous soup spoon of sauce.

Add a couple of slices of ham.

On top, grated Emmental cheese then another half a soup spoon of sauce before the top slice of bread and another spoonful of sauce on top. Finish with Emmental cheese before grilling in the oven for perfect colour and texture.

Bon Appetit.

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