Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BrunchBATTLE: The Brooklyn Brunch Experiment

Just when you think there are only so many ways and so many time slots in which we can experience brunch, someone throws a curveball at you. In this instance, we couldn't pass up the chance to try our hand at The Brooklyn Brunch Experiment, the fifth installment of The Food Experiments by seasoned food competitors, Nick Suarez and Theo Peck. Not to mention, with a portion of ticket sales going to support Ovarian Cancer research, and  prizes as lavish as 2 JetBlue tickets or a year's supply of Organic Valley products, are tempting enough to make anyone want to throw on an apron and whip up a big batch of brunch.

We decided to call our creation Babe's Bread Pudding in honor of Babes who Brunch. Take a gander at the creation. Looks can be deceptive, since this is no regular bread pudding. Go ahead, guess what's in it.... give up? If you thought "bacon jam", you're one psychic cookie.

Layers of challah bread pudding with real vanilla bean and traces of Jack Daniels hid a secret filling: bacon jam. Homemade bacon jam consists of bits of bacon and caramelized onions. A fairly simple recipe executed in a crockpot, with the addition of some maple syrup and a few spices. [Keep watching BWB, the recipe will be posted here shortly!] Finally, we topped it with a dollop of maple-syrup infused goat cheese and a pecan half for garnish.

So how did we end up with this porky pudding? Here's the story. Emily came up with the original idea after dining on some delicious Brussels sprouts with bacon jam at Village Tart (worth visiting for that side dish alone!). For one of the many giant brunches our friends hosted, she decided to create bacon jam to be served with homemade biscuits. As the brunch went on, people started pairing three loves: bacon jam, goat cheese and honey on crackers. When we heard word of the Brunch Experiment, her brain went straight back to that deliciously addictive combination. Bread pudding isn't something Emily has much experience making, so why not tackle it for a giant food competition?!

During the late A.M. hour baking, testing, and tasting session, we made slight adjustments together (AKA: Melissa insisted on adding more sugar to things. Emily's note: Melissa has an awesome palate, she rocked out on the recipe tweaking.) The final product pictured above was the culmination of the day and night's cooking.

After a necessary powernap, we popped these babes into the oven, tapped our feet impatiently, but still managed to carry the two trays over in time to set up before the crowds arrived. We got too wrapped up in keeping down the fort at our station to take photos or taste everyone else's delicious creations for the most part, but Serious Eats, Metromix, Always Hungry, and The Huffington Post have more general coverage of the event and the winners.

There were some impressive showings that day, and we extend well-deserved congratulations to the winners. The creative minds behind Wanna Spoon? won over the judges with their version of Breakfast Cupcakes, corn cupcakes with bacon buttercream frosting, paired with a Bloody Mary shooter with spicy candied bacon. The bubbly duo, Emily and Linda, were sweet to come up to us afterward and give us such sincere praise for the Babe's Bread Pudding. It was pretty humbling and inspiring for us as food bloggers to go up against professional caterers and seasoned competitors. But the best part about these slams, cookoffs, or throwdowns, is getting to know the passionate creators who we have the pleasure of competing next to.
And look, our mascot, Babe! Guess we didn't eat him after all.


  1. That sounds like a lot of fun for a good cause and great eats. Where do you find out about these things?

  2. You two are awesome!

    This is the first time I've ever been able to say I've tasted the inspiration (the cracker/bacon jam carnage at brunch) to one of the versions of the final product (another brunch where Em sent us home with samples)of a recipe.

    Looking forward to warm weather and running through outdoor brunch times with you Ladies.

  3. @TJ - Emily's competed before in some of these events, but in this instance we were approached and couldn't pass up the invite. We'll be sure to keep you posted about upcoming events that we're attending!

    @Patrice - Thanks, you're pretty darn awesome yourself! The final product for the Brunch Experiment ended up being distinctly different from the recipe sample you tasted. We didn't get to eat much of our own either, so I'm thinking we'll have to recreate it for a BrunchIN (to which you'll have to come help us eat).

  4. TJ, if I can attempt to sum it up briefly, basically I found out about these competitions through Cathy Erway and her blog Not Eating Out in NY. After I just started following her blog in August, she posted about a soup & sandwich cookoff. For some reason, my insane (and unemployed) mind got stuck on doing it.

    At the event, a very small one, I met some amazing people and loved the comraderie. I also met Matt Timms, who does "Takedowns". (That's where these Food Experiments came from, 2 guys that kept winning takedowns so decided to do their own.)

    Anyway, sorry for the history lesson, but basically all it takes is one time to get addicted to the fun.

    And to all the ladies, I'm tentatively announcing I will remake the bread pudding for whatever apartment housewarming brunch we do. ;)