13 November 2011

Iron Chef Challenge - November 2011: Breadcrumbs

The Iron Chef Challenge returns! This time, the secret ingredient was breadcrumbs. One could use them to devise endless variations of bean and veggie patties, balls, and loaves. Oven-, pan-, or deep-fried fritters are so delectably crisp with their crumb-coated exteriors. The savory possibilities seemed not only obvious, but wise routes to take, considering the almost comedic errors that plagued my overly-complicated deviation. I'll explain further, beginning with the odd means by which I came about my challenge plan.

It began with a first-time attempt at making gingerbread--not cookies, but an actual loaf. For reasons I won't bother to address, the loaf refused to bake through, essentially resulting in an extremely moist center (if not just plain raw). That was fail number one. Just as I was in the process of baking this loaf, I heard about this month's Iron Chef Challenge, so decided to attempt to salvage the loaf by breaking it apart to dry it as bread crumbs. The process was lengthy and imperfect, thanks to the uneven initial baking of the loaf, eventually yielding hard, shrunken, citrus- and ginger-scented pebbles. They were so hard, in fact, that my reliably sturdy food processor could only crush them into Grape Nuts-sized nuggets. By this point, I had decided to use whatever crumbs resulted from the gingerbread failure as part of a strudel-cinnamon roll fusion. The size of the nuggets simply wouldn't do--they were too hard and certainly not crumbs--so I resorted to the big guns (i.e., a Vitamix dry container) to get the job done. That was fail number two. Thanks to the frightening power of that contraption, it quickly pulverized my would-be breadcrumbs into almost a fine flour. I wasn't sure how much the texture of my filling would be affected, but onward I pressed, with more mistakes to follow.

I actually meant to make a rather snazzy Danish braid (using this fabulous brioche dough instead of pastry) with a spiced pear strudel filling. And I did make one that happened to look and taste quite nice. So why is the braid not my entry to the Iron Chef Challenge? I was so focused on how I would go about making a presentable braid that I forgot to include the breadcrumbs with the filling before proceeding with the braid. Again, fail.

So, after making another batch of brioche, I decided to attempt autumn fruit "strudel rolls" (as strudel often have breadcrumbs added to the filling). To make the filling, I simmered peeled and diced fuyu persimmon and d'anjou pear with a bit of fresh ginger, orange juice, and brown sugar, until thickened ever so slightly. My breadcrumbs were at the ready for whenever I planned to assemble the rolls.

But yet another folly would make the process that much more frustrating. Although I chilled the filling for awhile before deciding to make the rolls, my impatience compelled me to accelerate the process by slathering still-warm fruit compote onto the rolled out brioche dough. It seemed harmless enough, and frankly, I was sighing with relief that I remembered to sprinkled the gingerbread crumbs over the filling this time around. Naturally, I was wrong. You see, friends and curious readers, the filling was just warm enough to melt the fat in the dough to the point at which trying to roll it and the filling into a coil made for a sticky feat. By some miracle, I managed to prevent holes from tearing, but that didn't prevent the individual rolls from being misshapen and downright ugly. They were uneven in size, too--certainly not indicative of my ability to turn out some prettier baked goods, but maybe that's just me trying to make myself feel better about this whole debacle.
The rolls rose as hideous blobs, save for one or two that held promise of looking normal.
In the end, the rolls had a lovely, buttery, golden-brown crisp on top (because the brioche itself did not fail), with a uniquely bread pudding-like interior (completely unintentional, by the way, and not necessarily favored). The gingerbread crumbs did their duty, helping the filling to be texturally similar to that of strudel filling, albeit with a more autumnal flavor that was delicately sweet. I won't go so far as to call this experiment a complete failure, but it certainly is not without its disappointments (or "lessons," to be more optimistic about it). If it gets a second look, I will be sure to go about the process more thoughtfully.


  1. sendmorecops11/13/11, 7:14 PM

    I love this epic tale!

  2. I can get right into this hideous blob action ;-)  Seriously, though, I find it's pretty rare to just luck into the perfect original recipe the first time.  I'd guess your persimmons were pretty moistening.  Love the idea of the gingerbread crumbs!  Waste not, etc.

  3. it's true, baking failures are all lessons to learn! I've certainly had my share- I've never made crumbs but I have made cupcake balls, cupcakes in cupcakes and much more food recycling! I do have a great vegan gingerbread cake (8x8pan) recipe on my blog, if you are interested! It uses pumpkin, agave, molasses, and it does take a long time to bake, but it is soooo worth it! Find it here: http://wp.me/pxgq3-pH

  4. lynn_eva_barber11/14/11, 8:28 PM

    This was like my experiment making babka. I think my hair went gray that day!

  5. YUM YUM YUM! And what beautiful photos! xo


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