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April 29, 2006

IMBB #25: DC Duby's Pan-fried bread pudding with orange-braised endive and chicory ice cream


Ever prepare a dish that was good but left you wondering if it was good enough?  The issue I'm raising speaks to the relationship between the quality of a dish versus the amount of effort needed to create it.  Consider, for example, the classic Italian spaghetti aglio e oglio:  noodles dressed with good olive oil, some finely chopped garlic, dried chilli flakes to taste, and then topped with a generous grating of parmigiano or pecorino.  This is by no means my favourite pasta, but it is easy and delicious, and can be prepared in minutes.  For the minimal effort involved, the payback is huge.

Now take our contribution to the stale bread edition of Is My Blog Burning? hosted by An Obsession with Food, DC Duby's pan-fried bread pudding with orange-braised chicon (endive) and chicory ice cream.  Quite a mouthful to say, isn't it?  It should be, because making this dish requires no fewer than six distinct preparations, including fruit stock, bread pudding, braised endive, chicory ice cream, and two different caramels.  That's a lot of work for a home cook -- work measured in days and hours rather than minutes.

I don't want to be misunderstood.  This dish is excellent.  The bread pudding, made from stale bread, good dark chocolate, and apple is good, if a little unremarkable.  As odd as it seems, the orange-braised endive works spectacularly in this dish, contrasting pleasantly with the burnt sweetness of the caramel.  The chicory ice cream's roasted coffee flavour is superb and we will most certainly revisit it.  Fruit stock is a punchy mixture of sugar, citrus, apples, pears, carrots and aromatics.  Though I only needed two tablespoons out of the two litres produced by the recipe, I can think of wonderful uses for what's left (do I hear dessert risotto?).

Still, I'm left with the nagging question: Was it worth it?  We've discussed this question extensively.  The answer we've arrived at is, sadly, no.  And it's not because we didn't enjoy the dish, it's because the payoff didn't warrant the effort we put into it.  The Dubys have been hailed as Canada's leading practitioners of molecular gastronomy and their cookbook Wild Sweets, which contains this recipe, is remarkable not only for the creativity of its preparations but also for the pairing of its dishes with appropriate wines.

There are some frustrating elements to the recipes.  For example, this dessert requires eight sugar cubes, a unit of measurement we've never seen anywhere else.  Even more vaguely, they call for "an apple, diced" in the bread pudding.  No indication is given as to how much apple or what kind of an apple should be used -- and as we've had the misfortune to experience, there's a world of difference between a Spy and a McIntosh when it comes to baking.

Plus, some of the techniques given seem not only vague, but backwards.  This dish calls for two different kinds of caramel: one to make the sugar lattices used for garnish, and one for the sauce.  The recipe directs the cook to heat sugar, corn syrup, and water until "caramel in colour."   Precision is all-important when it comes to cooking sugar, so we were surprised not to see a specific temperature. Then the cook is to pour the hot sugar into a mixture of cream, butter, and maple syrup.  Guess what happens when the hot ingredients hit the cooler ones?  The sugar hardens almost immediately, without incorporating into the cream.  We had to put the whole thing back on the stove, heating and beating the components into uniting.  The resulting sauce was absolutely delicious, but all the anxiety could have been avoided by beating the cream mixture directly into the hot sugar syrup.

The Dubys definitely inspire with their unorthodox flavour combinations.  We know that other cooks, such as Clement from A la Cuisine and Keiko of Nordljus, have had good experiences working from Wild Sweets' recipes.  We still have questions about the science behind some of the preparations:  for example, if anyone knows why pectin is used in the chicory-infused ice cream, we welcome your insights!  But in general, the complexity of the dishes means that we'll likely only use these recipes when we have a lot of time and are cooking for a special occasion.  And IMBB #25 certainly counts!

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Rob like Harry Potter???
You're like a magician!!!


Well I certainly admire the immense effort that went into this dish. And the photography is spectacular!

While it may not have been worth the effort, the post is excellent. Well done!


Looks incredable!
Sad to hear it wasn't perhaps worth the effort, top marks for experimentation though.
And as Ivonne says excellent post!


That's certainly a lot of unusual components to get your head around in a dish! Even if it wasn't your favorite, kudos for how beautifully you plated it!

A question...I have been trying to track down the Wild Sweets book for a while but it seems to be out of stock on both the Duby site and Is it available elsewhere in Canada and do you recommend it? Thanks!

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Well looking at the picture though, it looks really nice! But I would agree with you Rob that sometimes the result can be disappointing in view of the work put in a recipe. Funny you mention pectin as I ran across a recipe in one of my French cookbooks which required it. I had to ask my mum what her thought was on it, to which she and I ended up believing that gelatin would do the trick? Was it your question or just you did not know why they simply used pectin at all? I really enjoyed your post!

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Just found pectin on line, so I guess gelatin and pectin could not be interchanged. I have to research more now....


Ivonne and Bron, thank you.

Anita, I'm doing some checking on the Wild Sweets book. I'll get back to you soon.

Bea, I was more confused at why they would add pectin to an ice cream, especially since the custard already contained egg yolks. I may be wrong, but the eggs help with emulsification, which is good in an ice cream, whereas the pectin would cause gelatinization, which doesn't seem like a good idea in an ice cream. Of course, I'm not entirely sure.

Derrick Schneider

Looks great, and sounds really interesting (in a good way).


Hello Rob, according to this website, pectin minimises the formation of ice crystals and stabilizes and optimises the freeze-thaw properties of frozen foods.


the pectin gives the ice cream a better texture by absorbing water molecules in the ice cream base and by doing that, minimize crystalization in the final product. Gelatin in ice cream also has the same effect but i don't think they can be substituted cup for cup.

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