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Coffee Shop Style Toaster - Kenwood Virtu Toaster 

Versatile toaster for bread, a wide range of bakery products and filled sandwiches and ciabattas.
Kenwood Virtu Toaster

The lastest of our toaster reviews is the Kenwood Virtu toaster - and my pain au chocolat is warming up in it right now.  When I first started to review this toaster, I thought 'oh no, not another specialist toaster' - one for paninis this time!  Do I really need a different gadget for every type of food I can think of!   However, as I've got to grips with using this one, I see that it's actually quite versatile.  It can handle everything from your plain ordinary toast, through a range of bakery products, right through to filled ciabattas.  Gone are the days when a toaster just took two sheets of bread and turned them into toast.

This little machine looks just like an ordinary toaster on the outside, but on the inside it has a cage into which you can squeeze paninis, crossiants, crumpets, bagels, teacakes, ciabattas, and waffles to name a few.  Not only that - you can also fill your ciabattas, crossants, etc and once you pop your food into the cage, you can squeeze it together to hold the food in.   So it can take a variety of thicknesses, sizes and types of bakery products.  Once the food is cooked, it doesn't pop up, it beeps, the toaster turns off, and you lift the cage out by handles at the side.  This is so much safer and easier than trying to mangle a hotcross bun out of an ordinary toaster, and you certainly wouldn't put filled sandwiches in an standard old fashioned toaster.  I was a bit unsure about putting filled sandwiches in the toaster, but it did work very well, producing a hot and warmed through ciabatta.  Kenwood does warn you not to use any runny ingredients and not to cut through both sides of a ciabatta - for the sake of keeping cleaning easy.

There are three settings, high, low and bagel (which toasts just one side).  High is recommended for sliced bread and waffles.  Low is for thicker items like pain au chocolat, or filled ciabatta to ensure warming right through.  In the instruction leaflet there is a guideline to which setting, and setting range  (1-10) to use.  Like all toasters you need to have a play around to see what the best setting range to use.  I'd recommend starting with the lower of the settings they recommend, and then building up, to avoid the burnt toast syndrome.

So far all the Kenwood products I've reviewed have been simple to use, look stylish and do what they say on the box.  Earlier in the month I tested the Kenwood Response Toaster.  Whilst it was a good toaster for single people - handling toast, croissants, and bagels, I would say the Virtu cooks a much wider range of foods, and is less fiddly to use for croissants. 

Whilst my filled ciabatta turned out well, I haven't had a chance to cook a wide range of filled sandwiches in the Virtu toaster.  I would question how gunked up it might get over time if you have too many toasties with cheese.  The George Forman Lean Mean grilling machine we reviewed a while ago or a more traditional sandwich maker  could be easier to clean for certain types of filling.  However, if you are short of space and want something that toasts a wide range of snack options, the Virtu could be a very good choice.  The Virtu toaster takes up a lot less space than a flatbed sandwich toaster, combining the functionality of a sandwich and ordinary toaster.  With so many gadgets to choose from space is very much a consideration, and you should think carefully about what you your counter-top gadgets to do for you.

At £39.99 from Amazon, it is at the more expensive end of toasting machines, but it's worth considering how much you might save over buying a toaster and a sandwich maker:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/KENWOOD-ADJUSTABLE-ALUMINIUM-VARIABLE-SETTINGS/dp/B000U1T12W

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