HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


No More French Toast on Chopped

OK, I know the desert round is the toughest one. But I think there needs to be some sort of moratorium on "Pain Perdue" or "French Toast" in round three. Do the contestants not watch the show and not realized how predictable and boring that choice is? Or do they watch the show too much and now the dish and the round are inextricably bound together in their heads, so that in that moment of pressure it is all they can think of?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hey dvsndvs,

    Can I ante up with the ubiquitous dessert round Napoleon?

    1. Isn't bread pudding more common?

      1. have you ever tried to make a dessert with some of the screwy combinations of ingredients they give them to use? And within a 30 minute time limit? That 30 minute limit definitely excludes many desserts they might otherwise come up with.

        1. Pushed to the limit, that's all some of them can crank out.

          1. I'd like to see an entire episode with no arugula in the pantry. No ubiquitous arugula salads in the first round would be nice.

            1. I think the same thing when we watch it. Or, don't they realize how exciting ice cream is to the judges, or at least using the ice cream machine? If I were on the show, I'd perfect making ice cream in 45 minutes.

              24 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                And because you are so well prepared, the judges would be happy to grant you 15 minutes of overtime :)

                1. re: paulj

                  Exactly. I think a lot of people who haven't cooked competitively don't realize how much the time limits come into play and really dictate what you make.

                  French toast is popular on Chopped because it's one of the few desserts you can reliably make in 30 minutes while still leaving time for a sauce and another component to let you use up the basket ingredients.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Isn't it 45 minutes? Either way, yes, obviously it's an easy one to do but if you're competing for $10,000, come up with something else. In the beginning, I can see using it as a crutch but it's been on for a few years now and chefs should know what to expect.

                    1. re: chowser

                      I thought it was 30 minutes for dessert. Not positive. The official website is vague but seems to back me up. http://www.foodnetwork.com/chopped/in...

                      I still think you are assuming cooking in this type of format is easier than it is. You're always going to see a lot of French toast and beignets and parfaits and napoleons unless they change their rules. You don't see much creativity because the contestants are deliberately given no time to plan and just barely enough time to cook.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I vaguely remember the time limit increasing with each course--20 of appetizers, 30 for main, 45 for dessert but it could be episode specific, too. The description of on their site says 30 mins for "an amazing course" but doesn't say which or if it's for all and it's not the same for all.

                        I don't think cooking in this format is easy at all. But, there is a big prize at the end of a day so it seems like they could go in w/ a game plan that they could tweak/change as they learn their ingredients, especially something like dessert since that always trips them up. Learn a basic shortbread/biscuit, cake, a cookie which few do. It's supposed to be about creativity and if everyone is doing it, it's not.

                        1. re: chowser

                          I'll leave the question of time limits unsettled for now. I'll try to take note next time I catch an episode.

                          The judges reward creativity. But they also reward making food that tastes good, and looks good, and shows mastery of technique. Yeah, the very best contestants are able to be creative while delivering these other things as well. But they're the best because doing so isn't easy.

                          I mean no offense to you personally or to anyone else in this thread, but most of us commenting here would turn in a half-finished plate or something inedible the first time cooking under these conditions.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            True, which is why I'd never enter or be considered to be on the show. But, if the criteria to talk about improvements a professional might make is that we're better than the pro, it would make for a pretty quiet Olympics, Superbowl (or any pro match), Top Chef, Miss America, etc. I think it comes down to whether you root for someone who thinks outside the box, takes the risk of failing vs someone who does the same old, same old well and if I'm watching a competition, I go for the one who stretches. There's a reason Shaun White is so popular and it's not because he does what everyone else does well.

                            1. re: chowser

                              A lot of this thread registers not as making suggestions but as bemoaning the low level of the show's contestants.

                              The rules dictate to large extent what people can effectively make. That's why when Chopped had a 'Masters' tournament, people as skilled as Anita Lo made more or less the same stuff that other Chopped contestants have made in similar situations.

                              I root for people who think outside the box as well. But only if they have the other bases covered. Cooking well is 90% technique and 10% artistry (if that much). When a 'culinary artist' appears on these shows - someone who thinks their creativity alone will win it for them - I usually just see an arrogant kid who hasn't worked hard enough on technique. Every once in a while, we see the best of both worlds in a single contestant. That's great. But we can't all be Shaun Whites or Ferran Adrias.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                One of the latest episodes had more conventional ingredients ("A is for Apple. U is for Udon"?). After the appetizer, one of the judges (Amanda?) stressed that they wanted more creativity or skill.

                                Dessert: Thai basil, marinated cippolini onions, Black Oxford apples, rolled oats

                                I don't recall what the desserts were, though

                                1. re: paulj

                                  OK, the call to creativity was by Aaron, though it was repeated through out the entree phase.

                                  - oat onion cookie and apple soup
                                  - some sort of caramelized apples and toasted oats

                                  Overall the winner showed more creativity, including in the cookie

                          2. re: chowser

                            They've had a number of special episodes where the entree and dessert rounds have been longer than the standard 30 minutes. You're not crazy.

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              Can you be more specific? I don't recall any.

                              On the Wiki list, I find one 45 min period - for a 12lb turkey, season 3

                              1. re: paulj

                                Twice they've given chefs 45 minutes in the entree round when whole duck was in the basket. The judges commented when contestants failed to use the entire duck rather than just 1 cut.

                                I've seen at least 1 episode where the dessert round was extended, and no, I don't remember which one it was.

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Wiki gives 40 minutes for the whole duck episode - with Freitag, Zakarian, Sánchez

                                  there was also a 40 minute goose, and a 50 minute dessert with cake flour segment (50000 Finale)

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I caught an episode last night and dessert was just 30. Wiki, surprisingly. has a lot of little details for these shows.

                            2. re: chowser

                              It's 20 mins for the first course, 30 minutes for main, and 30 for dessert. If they have an extra-time-consuming ingredient like whole turkey they give them another 15 minutes for the main course but afaik dessert is always 30 minutes. It boggles the mind how some chefs manage to bake in that time-frame!

                      2. re: paulj

                        LOL, though I'm surprised few have used the liquid nitrogen trick, instead. Maybe it's not a convenient pantry item.

                        1. re: chowser

                          Do they keep liquid nitrogen in the pantry?

                          That would indeed be faster, but also more active than dumping your base in an ice cream maker. That's a major consideration as well. You need multiple components on a plate and too much time fussing over any one thing is bad.

                      3. re: chowser

                        The dessert rounds are typically Half hour long which for a standard run of the milline cream maker means almost enough time to churn a batch that is refrigerator temperature into a very soft serve consistency. It will havemelted into a puddle by the time the judges eat it

                        1. re: chowser

                          i think it's lame they only have one ice cream machine though - seems unfair

                          1. re: thew

                            They do it for drama - make the contestants race for it, fight for it. But IMO, you're right - it's a lame, uninteresting type of drama.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Uninteresting to certain skilled cooks, but interesting to the unwashed masses! It is one of FN's most popular shows, and a frequent topic of discussion on this board.

                              1. re: paulj

                                I'm well aware. The 'uninteresting' comment was just my opinion.

                                Also, I'm only criticizing a small part of the show. There are other parts that I find more interesting and less forced. I still think it would be a better show if they dropped the silly ploys (one ice cream maker for two cooks), varied time limits a bit, and stopped having the judges browbeat the contestants. I like the rest of it.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  we were referring specifically to there only being an ice cream machine available to one contestant, not the show as a whole

                          2. If the judges didn't want to see bread pudding maybe they need to stop putting some kind of bread in the dessert basket, or similar such as tubal croissants. I think the desserts round has got really boring, but I think that 30-45 minutes is not enough for baking most things like a pie or getting things cooled like mousse.

                            I am always amazed when one of the finalists makes ice cream and is then judged second. How is it possible for the ice cream not to melt?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: smartie

                              They don't show us anything about how the dishes are kept until judgement, or how they are served. The first one potentially has an advantage, whether hot or cold. We know something of the 'be hind the scenes' arrangement for ICA, but not about Chopped.

                            2. Wasn't there a contestant fairly recently who made a cake? Memory tells me that there wasn't enough time for it to bake all the way through, so s/he turned it into something else instead...I do remember the judges applauding him for the effort, though.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                                I think it was the Chilean contestant. He was making a chocolate cake and it didn't turn out how he wanted it so he repurposed it.

                              2. The 30 minute time frame is tough, but it's not a killer. Most of the chefs that make is to the final round do not typically have great skills at pastry. They're good in the savory kitchen, but often not so much with sweets. While they know how ingredients for appetizer and entree dishes are typically going to be handled and react to certain applications, they may not know exactly what the sweet ingredients are going to do.

                                I agree, French Toast, Pain Perdue adn Bread Pudding are over used, over wrought and overly tired. Frankly, I've never seen French Toast or Pain Perdue offered on a dessert menu here in my area, only for breakfast. But for someone with limited dessert skills, or limited confidence in their ability to create an edible dessert, they lessens the risk of failure as these dishes are certainly more forgiving than, say, a cake or pastry.

                                37 Replies
                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Yes in the USA, french toast is considered a breakfast item, but is that the case elsewhere? Bread pudding is a common American dessert.

                                  From the Wiki article:
                                  "In France, pain perdu is considered to be a dessert and not a breakfast food item" - right or wrong?

                                  We've discussed a savory pain perdu from Laura Calder.

                                  I want to see more syllabub (from the Brits episode)!

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    The last time I checked FTV was still located in the USA and the majority of chefs participating in Chopped are either American or woking in American kitchens. I suspect if Americans were surveyed...survey says...French Toast/Pain Perdue is a breakfast food, not a dessert.

                                    That said, certainly there is nothing that dictates the contestants cook to meet American tastes or expectations. The judges often reward the chefs that take risks or display an understanding of ethnic (non-American?) dishes. Where's the risk or knowledge of ethnic foodways in French Toast. Tired, boring and stale.

                                    Personally, I'd like to see greater use of eggs...proper custards, merignues or souffles (and before you ask who's done souffle, Aaron and Geoffery in their All-Stars elimination episode. Geoffery got eliminated for failing to make adequate use of his duck)

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      There's a lot of overlap between American breakfast and dessert items. We probably like a sweet breakfast more than anyone else.

                                      What kind of custard can you make in that time frame?

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        No doubt Americans have a massive sweet tooth, but after 30 years in non-commerical kitchens I'm preparing and selling FAR fewer sweet breakfast items than ever. Even our clients with the biggest ability to consume sweets have more than cut ther consumption in half over the last 5 years.

                                        Cooked custards, as opposed to baked ones, can be done in short periods of time. nI think if you cooked it in a small and shallow enough container, you could pull off a clafouti

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          Aren't those fairly common on Chopped - cooked custards, that is? The thinnest serves as a sauce.

                                  2. re: DiningDiva

                                    You're probably right that for the average cook on Chopped, dessert isn't their strong point. But you say 30 minutes isn't a killer - for dessert, that is pretty tight. Much tighter IMO than 30 minutes for a savory course. We've seen people try over and over again to bake something, and over and over again, that decision bites them in the ass. I feel relatively sure that I could make molten chocolate cakes in my own kitchen in under 30 minutes (only 9 minutes in the oven if you use a cupcake tin), but I'm not so sure I would try this in another kitchen in a competition setting.

                                    What would you recommend instead?
                                    Souffles and crepes both seem underused to me, but neither strikes me as particularly creative, and both are a bit riskier than french toast and napoleans and such.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      I think the other thing to remember about many of these competitors is that they are professionals, spending a lot of hours in commercial kitchens on a regular basis doing repetitive production. They can execute most things much more quickly than those of us at home because they've done them thousands and thousands of times. A lot of the skills they're asked to present are so ingrained they're second nature.

                                      I am not a big fan of crepes, but I agree they're under utilized and often times make a great vehicle for some of the other ingredients. I think souffles are more creative than crepes, in part because they have a perceived difficulty value.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        Even professionals are limited by their two hands and the clock. I've competed in cooking competitions with professionals - some of them are quite skilled and most are faster than I am, but there's no magic involved. 30 minutes is not a lot of time for a multi-component dessert from scratch whether you're a pro or not. We've seen over and over again that 30 minutes isn't quite enough time for these guys to bake most things.

                                        I don't see creativity as being the same thing as difficulty. I am a little surprised though that more people don't go for souffles precisely because of that perceived difficulty factor. Though after a little while of that, people would be asking why everyone on Chopped just makes souffles and couldn't they be a little more original, yada, yada, yada.

                                        Really, if people want to see more originality from the contestants, they need more time for their courses, particularly dessert. The producers have decided that clock-related drama is more interesting and important than contestants cooking well and creatively.

                                        You might also see some improvement if the show went out of its way to have an all pastry chef episode. Right now, pastry chefs tend to lose in the first two rounds. But even then, I think we'd see that 30 minutes is just too little time for most fully developed desserts, just as has often been the case when a chef who claims to know pastry makes it to the final round now.

                                        ETA: come to think of it, crepes are probably actually more difficult in this setting than souffles. You'd have to make maybe 8 crepes (2 per judge's plate, 2 for the presentation plate), usually the first one made in any one pan gets trashed, and it's all active cooking time - nothing you can set and forget for a bit. Even if you're wicked fast at making crepes, that'll still probably take up about half of your cooking time for that component alone.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          An all pastry chef episode would be fun to see, as long as the pastry chef, like Jacques Torres, was quick in the kitchen. And, I've never seen a comparison but it seems like line cooks might have an advantage over some chefs of larger restaurants because they'd be more hands on.

                                          As dessert goes, there are a lot that are made in half an hour, as those on the show have done. It's just that french toast shows up most often, or so it seems. And, I think dessert in half an hour is easier than a meat that normally needs to be braised can be done well in half an hour (or even 20 minutes for the appetizer round). I wonder why they don't let them use pressure cookers and microwaves. Maybe they don't want to help the chefs speed it up that way?

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Even braising meats can usually be cut in such a way that eating them unbraised isn't too terrible. On top of that, your hand is forced with braising meats in a way that it isn't with desserts. Braising meats are easy, but frustrating - all you can do is cut em small, get em cooking early, and hope. OTOH, desserts in 30 minutes give you just enough slack to hang yourself.

                                            I must admit I don't watch every single episode of Chopped, or even half of em. From what I've seen, french toast hasn't been any more abused than napoleons and bread puddings and parfaits and other quick dessert standbys. But if you catch more episodes than I do, I'll take your word for it that French Toast may be over-represented even by quick dessert standards. Couldn't say why that is exactly.

                                            The pressure cooker thing is a fine example of what holds me back from really liking the show. They deliberately limit the contestants and don't give them the time or tools they obviously need to get the job done well; worse, the judges then sit there scowling at em, bitching about how their meat was tough/underdone/etc as though the contestants were being deliberately disrespectful rather than trying their best and failing. I love cooking competitions, but i'd be more into this one if they got rid of the forced drama and let the natural drama of the competition along with some time and space constraints stand.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              Pressure cooker? That's one tool that I haven't seen on Chopped.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  the lack of a pressure cooker makes me nutty too

                                            2. re: chowser

                                              They have a microwave in the kitchen. It doesn't get used much except for melting chocolate and butter, but there's one there. One smart chef microwaved their clams to finish cooking them in thirty seconds when they were about to run out of time.

                                              1. re: Kajikit

                                                I must have missed it. Those are the reasons I'd want one, too.

                                            3. re: cowboyardee

                                              I didn't say there was any magic involved with anything the contestants do. I just pointed out that the contestants have a more refined skillset than the average viewer and are capable of executing many thing more quickly than the average viewer watching from the comfort of their sofa.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                That's sorta obvious. Doesn't mean they can pull off a cheesecake from scratch in 30 minutes.

                                                My point was that many people judging from the comfort of their sofa tend to overestimate what a skilled professional can get done in 30 minutes. You seem to be saying that people underestimate it - I don't agree.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  "My point was that many people judging from the comfort of their sofa tend to overestimate what a skilled professional can get done in 30 minutes. "

                                                  Not really because many chefs on the show have not only pulled it off but done extremely well; and not done french toast. And, bite-sized cheesecakes can be made, from scratch in half an hour. Baking time about 15 minutes. As I pointed out above, people will Monday night quarterback but never be able to throw a football. If only those who played better could critique, there wouldn't even be commentators for the most part.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Try making a cheesecake, bite-sized or not, in 30 minutes in an unfamiliar kitchen while working on 2 or 3 other components. Mixed, assembled, baked, and plated. Good luck. Maybe if premade crust was one of the basket ingredients. I really don't think that anything needing longer than ~10-12 minutes to bake is a viable option, unless it's exceptionally easy and quick to assemble.

                                                    I've already admitted that some people have effectively pulled off something more exciting than French toast. That's why some people win over others. It's not easy or everyone would do it. And we can tell from the other courses that many (not all) of the contestants are quite good on-the-fly cooks.

                                                    I'm not saying people who are less skilled than the competitors can't critique. I'm saying the criticism is incorrect in this case.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I'm far from a professional but I can put together some cakes, cheesecakes included, and cookies before the oven has preheated. They're not anything close to what I'd do if I had more time but do-able. Multitasking w/ the equipment they have--pulse cookie crumbs, butter, sugar in food processor while mixing batter in stand mixer. Don't bake crust but while stand mixer is mixing, press crumbs into mini-muffin tins. Pour, bake. They're only making four. Easy? No, but there's $10,000 on the line. You're going to be on the show, practice, practice, practice until you get it right and quickly. Do that for a handful of desserts to try to accommodate what's going to be thrown at you. It's one thing if they're called right before the show is filming but I'm assuming they get some notice. Try it out in different kitchens, watch old episodes and see how the kitchen is laid out.

                                                      I'd be curious to know how much practice/prep some of these chefs do. Maybe the ones who do the amazing jobs are the ones who prep the most. The ones who don't make pain perdue.

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        I'm assuming the oven is preheated when the timer is started for the round. Guess I can't say for sure, but it only makes sense.

                                                        I'm also assuming that nearly all of the chefs on the show practice some before the show. They're suckers if they don't.

                                                        Anyway, this cheesecake stuff is all idle talk unless someone tries it. I've never seen a recipe for cheesecake that bakes for less than 20 minutes - even individual ones - so I remain skeptical. On top of that, you'd usually chill a cheesecake after making it - by the time the judges get it, the center of even a well-cooked cheesecake would still be molten, much of it hot enough to burn their mouths.

                                                        But if you have a revolutionary recipe that sidesteps these problems, please post it. I'll try it out and time myself - my wife will be pleased. Though I'm not quite as fast as some of the long-time pros on the show, I've competed in and hosted quite a few cooking competitions, so I'm quite used to multitasking and working fast. I'll give it an honest effort and let you know how they are after 30 minutes and also how long it really takes me to get them done to my satisfaction. It may not be representative of what a pro with decades in the industry and real expertise in pastry can pull off, but it's better than bald speculation.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          There were complaints on one of yesterday's reruns about the dessert being too warm. I don't recall exactly what the dessert was. It included cherimoya and cheese crackers (and the 2nd round was a disastrous cornish game hen)

                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                            It's all really irrelevant, except that you came up w/ it as an idea and I ran with it. There are many desserts that can be done quickly and it doesn't have to be cheesecake--even make the cheesecake batter and stick it in the ice cream maker, serve it in graham cracker crust. That would thrill the judges. Even if it can't be done in half an hour, the point is that there are many that can, as shown by many on the show which shows the lack of creativity of these french toast chefs. If cheesecake can't, it doesn't mean there aren't others, just because you threw it out as an example.

                                                            Cooling can be done in the freezer like they do on Cupcake Wars. But here you go:


                                                            Or, even more, do a bakeless one and be creative about it. Whitney did on Master Chef season one and Gordon Ramsay raved about it.


                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              All of those recipes (except the last no-bake one) involve chilling the cakes. You don't get to chill, even in the freezer, when they take 15-20 minutes to bake. There's no time. You need to be plating by the time they come out of the oven. I still say that 15 minutes baking time is cutting it dangerously close for this type of competition.

                                                              The last no bake recipe is a clever idea, and if the mystery basket could be bent to its purposes, it would be a good trick to have in your bag. But let's not make it out to be more than it is either - it's just an unchilled cream cheese-based parfait served on a cracker crust.

                                                              Ice cream has proved problematic and too time consuming over and over again on the show, so I wouldn't really recommend that option either (freezing the cheesecake batter). While I admit that there are options for a creative and skilled chef in this circumstance, the very fact that you keep on suggesting recipes and techniques that are problematic or have proved unreliable on the show itself bears out my main point - 30 minutes for dessert with no planning is significantly tougher and more limiting than you're willing to admit.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                ", the very fact that you keep on suggesting recipes and techniques that are problematic or have proved unreliable on the show"

                                                                Um, first, I'm a basic untrained home cook. I think the point made above by DiningDiva is that these are professional chefs (I've also thrown non-cheesecake related suggestions out there, even if the cheesecake can't be done--though I still think it can be). So, even if you don't believe any of my suggestions would work (and you've kind of blown by them like cookies or mini cakes. Ice cream has been made successfully on the show), there are other desserts that have.

                                                                I expect more of the pros than an armchair quarterback. I can't throw a football to save my life. If a QB throws an interception directly into the arms of his opponent and you don't agree w/ any of my suggestions doesn't mean there isn't one. Other professionals have thrown non-interceptions in similar circumstances. Other professionals have won not making french toast. It has been done, repeatedly. Is it easy? No, if it were, it wouldn't be a challenge and there wouldn't be the prize money.

                                                                Here you go, a hot mini molten cake. Bake time 8-10 mins. If the chefs really lack that much creativity going into it, maybe they should pick up a copy of CI's 30 minute dishes.


                                                                Stove top apple crisp:


                                                                One of my favorites, three ingredient pb cookies, my kids call them pb candy when I dip them in chocolate and it's easy to add ingredients and doctor them up:


                                                                One of my favorite summer desserts, whipped ricotta with honey (also can be easily doctored):


                                                                "30 minutes for dessert with no planning is significantly tougher and more limiting than you're willing to admit."

                                                                Yes which is why it's smart for them to plan ahead. The first season or so, sure, they don't know what to expect. At this point, they should. I think it is limiting but I don't think, as you seem to, that it's undo-able to make anything other than french toast and parfait for a professional. I just have higher expectations that they plan ahead and practice.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  You're misrepresenting both my point and the skill level and variety of desserts presented on the show. When did I ever say it's undoable to make things other than french toast? Really, much of what you suggest (candied fruit with crumb topping, parfaits of various sorts) are already well on their way to being Chopped cliches, used only a bit less than french toast.

                                                                  You keep on accusing these guys of not practicing or planning ahead. I'm basically certain that most of them do. Their professional reputations are at stake, not just $10,000. On top of that I know from personal experience that most people fall flat on their face the first time competing in a timed cooking competition. Even pros don't seem to have a feel for how much you can actually get done in 30 minutes until they time themselves cooking a couple times.

                                                                  Of the suggestions I blow by, here are a few thoughts:
                                                                  Cookies are certainly possible to pull off. I suspect the main problem with them is that they are difficult to incorporate basket ingredients into without messing up the texture. Something like french toast by contrast can easily be stuffed or infused with all manner of ingredients. I usually wouldn't want to make peanut butter cookies unless peanut butter was a basket ingredient because the peanut flavor tends to take over a dish. Other types of cookies are less versatile. They're also a little time consuming so ideally you'd want to be using more than one basket ingredient in their preparation. If the cooks had 15 more minutes, I think you'd see a lot of crispy tuilles added to dessert plates.

                                                                  Mini cakes suffer the same problem with the additional issues they are even more time consuming and finicky to pull off correctly.

                                                                  Ice cream seems to fail roughly twice as often as it works on Chopped. Just a rough estimate. It's highly versatile and a great way to use mystery ingredients, but you're really racing the clock. Also, there's that 'only one ice cream maker' issue.

                                                                  Also, I pointed out that molten chocolate cakes were a possibility many posts back. Even then though it would be hard to incorporate basket ingredients unless one of them was chocolate. And time would still be a factor.

                                                                  Lots of things CAN be done. That doesn't mean it's smart to try. The French toast, napoleons, pain perdues, and bread puddings that people are bemoaning are popular not because the chefs don't know how to make other desserts, but rather because they're quick and easily adaptable to mystery basket ingredients. Time not spent on any one component is time you can spend getting another component right, or on making sure the presentation or balance of your dish is what you want it to be. Creativity isn't everything. Execution is more important.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Okay, dude, time to put your money where your mouth is :-) You've used up a lot of bandwidth telling us what can't be done, along wiht the fact that you actually have experience in this type of arena...so what WOULD *YOU* make that wasn't French Toast, Pain Perdu, Bread Pudding, or Parfait?

                                                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                      It all depends on the mystery basket. Also, I'm saying those aren't such bad choices as you guys are making em out to be.

                                                                      Anyway, if I was going on the show, I'd probably be practicing my souffles (versatile, high degree of perceived difficulty even though they aren't really that bad, just quick enough to be feasible), and also working on making faux tarts, where the crust and the filling are cooked separately and combined/layered just before service. I'd probably practice to be able to make a brittle pretty fast as well. And of course, all kinds of sauce-making are crucial.

                                                                      But here's the other thing: if the producers gave you a big loaf of bread that you are obligated to use - as they often do in the dessert round - how would you use it while avoiding the deadly 3 you listed above?

                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        If bread is actually in the basket, then the dreaded bread desserts are probably fair game.

                                                                        In a food processor I can make empanada dough in 2 minutes, 4 minutes if you count gathering ingredients and measuring. I can make pie dough just as quickly. And while I don't think it's the bet pie dough I can make, it's certainly serviceable. Both empanada and pie doughs cook quickly. The thing is, I know both recipes by heart and know what the proportions should be. How many dessert contestants have we seen just toss things together, say a hail mary, and hope it works out in the end. Most of the time it doesn't. You can fudge the recipe a bit with apps and entrees, not so much with desserts where their success often relies on specific ingredient ratios.

                                                                        I mentioned souffles up thread, and I'm surprised more contestants haven't tried them. They aren't hard, make an impressive presentation and lend themselves to endless variations, meaning you can incorporate just about anything into them.

                                                                        Brittle is easy, I've been making it for over 40 years (yes, as a matter of fact I did start making it as a young child), and, allowing 2 minutes to get the pan hot, I can make a fabulous brittle in about 3 minutes. I know this recipe by heart and could make it in my sleep.

                                                                        Ya'll are probably too young to remember pudding cakes made from scratch. Goes together pretty quickly, pour boiling water over it, bake and only the top is supposed to set. Serve it warm. Cake and sauce together in one. Lemon is kind of like lemon cake and lemon curd all rolled into one.

                                                                        Learn to make bisicuits and you can pretty much create fruit shortcake out of anything and garnish the dickens out of it.

                                                                        I think the point is, we're all getting pretty tired of seeing French Toast when there could be other options.

                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                          I was under the impression that most of the time we see french toast and the like, bread of some sort was in the basket. People might be blaming the contestants when in fact the producers are the ones really lacking creativity. But I'd agree that it would be lame to go pull bread from the pantry to make a bread pudding if that's what's been happening.

                                                                          A few thoughts on your suggestions:
                                                                          Empanadas could make for some interesting and impressive desserts, but I think they're best used if your filling doesn't have to be cooked all the way through. Also, they're a little time/labor intensive (for a 30 minute dessert) and not set and forget type foods, so you'd really have to use multiple basket ingredients in them, since you'll be a little limited in terms of how many other components you get done.

                                                                          I agree with you on brittles. But I clearly have to practice though cause I couldn't bang one out in 3 minutes. ;)

                                                                          I am apparently too young to remember pudding cakes. That seems like the kind of resourceful idea that really goes over well on Chopped though.

                                                                          Shortcakes can be pretty versatile and impressive, but I would think you're baking most of them for about 15 minutes - I feel that baking times of 15 minutes puts a contestant under the gun. My thinking is you have about 12 minutes to make em and get em in the oven (the 3 extra minutes go towards plating and 'ohcrapthey'renotdoneyet, whatthehelliswrongwiththisoven' cushion). It doesn't sound so awful, but you also have to account for brainstorming ways to use ingredients, getting other basket ingredients that need to be cooked a while on the heat early, and pressure/stagefright-induced errors and fumbles. That's tighter than it might appear.

                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                            Other than the nori episode they ran this evening, I've rarely seen bread actually in the dessert basket. Most frequently, I've seen the chefs go to the pantry and return with bread.

                                                                            Who says you have to bake an empanada, they can be just as easily deep fried and finished with powdered sugar. But I agree that the other ingredients in the basket could preclude an empanada, baked or fried. Fruit can be cut pretty small, tossed with sugar, spices, perhaps a splash of booze and folded into an empanada. The hard part is sealing. Or just do it open faced. If a person has any skill with rolling and working with pastry dough, they can probably get it rolled out thin enough to bake in 10 minutes. Use it as a base to build from.

                                                                            Make your brittle for 40+ years, and you can make it in your sleep too ;-)

                                                                            Pudding cake is a 50s kind of dessert.http://www.shesimmers.com/2009/01/my-... . It's really simple, but you do need to have a clue as to the recipe. And it may need to be made in ramekins or souffle cups in order to get in under the 30 minute deadline. The easiest and best recipe I've ever had for a pudding cake came out of Taste of Home, an odd, funky cooking magzaine devoted to middle America tastes from the middle of the last century. Contestants would do well to mine this magazine for dessert ideas.

                                                                            Don't get hung up on baking times on biscuits, it you cut them small enough you should be able to get them done, even if you have to use 2 per serving. I wonder if drop biscuits would work, that would elminate the rolling part of the prep.

                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                              I'm surprised there isn't more frying. It would be a fast way to get pastries and all done. And, here and on other time shows, it surprises me the size of what they try to bake in limited time frames. Make many small ones, eg. cupcakes, biscuits. Bite sized food takes as little as 8 minute to cook vs larger ones that can take upwards of 20 minutes. And, they're not having to mix up and make a whole batch of anything--just 4 servings.

                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                There are a number of challenges with doing deep frying on Chopped. Deep frying in a commerical kitchen is pretty easy because they usually have a commerical deep fryer. On Chopped you have to heat oil in a Dutch oven or sauce pan and get it to temp, 365-385* on a homestyle range and then hold it in that range long enough to get your stuff cooked.

                                                                                If the oil isn't hot enough the item won't cook quickly enough, won't brown well enough and will probably absorb too much oil.

                                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                                    I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but it's fun - I want to make one more post, this one running with your football analogy.

                                                                    Sometimes in a football game, you'll see the following - the score is tied, one team gets the ball with just a few seconds left near their own endzone. And rather than toss up a Hail Mary or try a complicated multi-lateral running play, the team with the ball kneels on it and sends the game into overtime. Some of the armchair quarterbacks hate this and wonder why they didn't take a chance at the endzone. But nonetheless, the best play is to take a knee after the snap. Why risk a fumble or a safety for a low percentage play when you could still win the game in OT?

                                                                    The same thing applies here. If you are going into the dessert round with a good chance to win, what's going to help you most is a well executed, high percentage dish, even if it's not super creative. You can still win with that unoriginal dish, based on the strength of the rest of the meal. But messing up a more ambitious dessert would likely ruin your chances entirely. Now, if the final win was based solely on the dessert course, I'm sure you'd see a lot more of these chefs going for broke.

                                                                    I realize that some people can pull off risky dishes and make em seem easy. I'm a big Top Chef fan and IIRC you are too. On that show, I loved watching Michael Voltaggio because he had the guts to 'throw for the endzone' every single down and somehow was able to pull it off far more often than not. But give credit where credit is due - despite making it look easy, Michael Voltaggio was a freak of nature. For most people, knowing where they stand and making the occasional punt is just smarter.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      That does make sense that they can play it easy for the win, if they're that far ahead. There was even some guy (I can't remember who or when) who won though he didn't finish the dessert round because he'd done so well in the other courses. If someone were doing it as a safety "sure thing" that's another matter from someone doing it by default, imo. I remember few times where the front runner is cocky enough to think he/she has it in the bag (and happily many haven't won).

                                                                      I'm not accusing the contestants of not practicing, btw. I'm saying if they did, they should have more on hand than the french toast, which as pointed about isn't even dessert. There's a restaurant near me that does a flourless chocolate waffle. I've never had it but people rave about it. That would be a step up from french toast or pain perdue.

                                                                      Anyway, I was at the store and they had cream cheese on sale so I'm going to give the cheesecake a try. When I get around to it, I'll post it on Home Cooking. I think it can work.

                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        Who or what determines what is a dessert and what is not?

                                                                        This is just an impression, but a Chopped dessert normally is:
                                                                        - a sweet soft 'base' (might not have any of the ingredients; usually with egg or dairy)
                                                                        - a contrasting crisp layer or component
                                                                        - a sauce (often containing one or more of the difficult ingredients)
                                                                        - garnish (using the other difficult ingredients)

                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                          "Who or what determines what is a dessert and what is not?"

                                                                          The judges. They've often said a dessert doesn't seem like a dessert but more like a breakfast. Maybe if you add enough sugar, anything can be a dessert. To me, it's just perception. I think the majority of the menu at IHOP is dessert but they sell it as breakfast. Funnel cake w/ strawberry jam and whipped cream? What is it?

                                                                          At my house, usually it's timing. If we have cake in the morning (usually a bundt cake), we call it breakfast. The same cake a few hours later is dessert.

                                          2. agreed. no more napoleons, either. or crepes. yes, i know that you can top napoleons or fill crepes with just about whatever the judges throw at you but puh-leeeze! Give us something less predictable.

                                            1. Just get rid of the dessert round completely. How many people choose an eatery based on desserts? I'm sure some do, but also there are loads of dessert-only places where that sweet tooth can be satiated. Or just get a scoop of gelato, a sweet coffee, fancy liquor, etc.

                                              Desserts are the post-coital part of a meal... you've built up to and peaked earlier. They are the cuddle part... nice, but not needed.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: tastyjon

                                                I go to restaurants for the dessert. Sometimes I will plan what I order for the savory side (apps, entrees) based on the dessert selection.

                                                But that aside, the purpose of the dessert round on Chopped is to test the contestant's breadth of knowledge and ability, not whether people actually base their restaurant selection on a dessert selection.

                                                1. re: tastyjon

                                                  my GF would disagree with you. for her dessert is an essential part of a meal. in good coitus you can build and peak more than once

                                                  1. re: tastyjon

                                                    This is a good idea. Add another component but take away dessert since there's a big divide between pastry chef and savory chef (for lack of a better term). Some of the best chefs probably can't put together a dessert quickly. I'm a dessert fan but don't expect it to be made by the same person.

                                                  2. I paid more attention to the 'my way' episode, where one made french toast (matzo crusted), the other a brown betty. While Zakarian made a passing reference to the FT not being dessert, the main criticism was that it was dry. In other words, it was execution rather than concept that was the problem. A criticism of the winner's dessert was that it lacked a textural contrast - the matzo crust did not hold up as well as a toasted oat one would have.

                                                    With matzo, my first thought would have been a sweet version of matzo brei. Depending on execution that can be considered a variation on french toast, an omelet, or scrambled eggs.

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      'A Nori Story" with pumpernickel bread. Both make french toast - is anything else possible?

                                                      One was described as more of a brunch item, but another complained that it wasn't sweet enough. But the other's fruit soup made the toast soggy. Apparently a weak app was the determining factor, not the desserts.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Warm cherry & yuzu crisp with crunchy curry pumpernickel crumb topping. Toss some nuts in with the pumpernickle when you zip in the food processor and garnish with sweetened sour cream flavored with a dash of additional yuzu.

                                                        Doable in 30 minutes...bread a few nuts, almonds maybe, curry powder and some butter into the food processor, spread on sheet pan, into the oven for 10-12 mins.

                                                        Pit cherries (or simply cut on either side of the pit to speed the process), into sauce pan with some of the yuzu, sugar and a little cornstarch. High heat to get cherries cooking asnd releasing their juices, reduce heat and cook to slightly thicken cherry juices and yuzu. Taste, adjust seasoning, perhaps a dab of almond extract if needed.

                                                        Portion into souffle cups or bowls, generously top with crumbs and a a small dollop of the sweetened sour cream.

                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                          Just tonight there were a couple of crisps or related items. One was a betty with a matzo topping (which wasn't crisp enough), the other caramelized apples with toasted oats topping.

                                                          Cooking the fruit base and crunchy topping separately gives more control over their individual consistency.

                                                          But isn't a 'crisp' just a simple version of a napolean? A single crisp layer, possibly more crumbly than brittle versus several layers of a sturdier crisp item?

                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                        Who won? I fell asleep (maybe too much french toast made it boring because someone on the previous show also made french toast). It was a bad decision to dip the french toast into the matzoh w/out anything else added to it. The contestants could have deep fried something coated in a matzoh mix to help w/ the dryness. I thought it was funny when one contestant said he talked to his girlfriend, a pastry chef, the night before to get ideas on what to do--why didn't he sit down earlier and work with her on it? Talk about not using a great advantage.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          The brown betty won over the french toast - though I think dessert was a flop for both.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            I'm mixing up my episodes since I saw parts of two last night. I do remember that one w/ the brown betty but the next episode is the one where I fell asleep--both desserts were french toast. The one with Malik--who would be the perfect villain part for a Top Chef series. He kept talking back to the judges and refused to listen to advice.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              The episode with 2 french toasts for dessert...the baby-faced, somewhat rotund chef won. Cherry soup w/French toast floating in it.

                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                Great thanks. And thanks for describing it because I can't remember who was who.

                                                              2. re: chowser

                                                                It's your turn to come up with a creative dessert using pumpernickel bread - without losing it. :)

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  Not being a fan of pumpernickel bread, I'd have trouble coming up w/ a good savory use for it.;-) I was impressed with the chef (can't remember which of the two episodes) who managed to cook two courses w/out tasting them due to allergies. That's impressive.

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    It was the winner of 'udon/apple' episode who used alcohol in his dishes (brandy etc) but did not taste it. It did bite him a bit on the dessert - the liquor taste was too strong/raw in the apple soup. His innovative cookie did get praise, mainly for use of unusual flavors. No mention of the cookie texture that I recall.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      I think that was the guy that was allergic to eggplant (app round) and shrimp (entree round). I agree, I thought he did remarkably well considering he couldn't taste 2/3s of the food he was required to make. IIRC, the judges thought his use of the eggplant in the appetizer was the best of the lot.

                                                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                        I missed the most of the first two rounds and only heard mention of the allergy. I knew it was shrimp but wondered what it was for the first round. And, I loved the respect between those two finalists.