Gazpacho: Brioche Resurrected

I am mourning a loss. Scratch that: two losses. I lost my goldfish, Claude, of a year and a half, this past week. All that knew him loved him; he was a fish among humans. There is still some debate over his death; some hypothesize heat exhaustion, while others claim involuntary fish slaughter and others, yet, fear he died from loneliness over the long July 4 thweekend. I am not kidding.

During all this doom and gloom, the unthinkable happened. A cooking cataclysm. The nail in the proverbial culinary coffin: bone-dry brioche. I don’t know what I was thinking attempting such a mountain in this frail state. For me, making starches from scratch is unthinkably tricky. It took me months to get fresh pasta under my belt, my gnocchi still needs work, and my pate brisse continues to taunt me with its tough, gluey exterior. A bread dough involving butter? I was asking for it.

While I’ve accepted the murkiness of Claude’s death, the mystery of my brioche haunts me still, a dense buttery ghost. It's truly perplexing how I managed to make DRY bread despite the use of over a half pound of butter.

I killed this brioche. (Involuntary brioche slaughter?) And yet, I am still grieving the loss. Behold the stages of grief:

Denial: After letting the dough sit for 3 hours something didn’t seem right. It wasn’t pliable. It seemed … tough. It must be all that butter, I reasoned. Not used to working with all that butter.

Anger: I took the dough out of the fridge the next day. Something was clearly rotten in the state of Denmark. It seemed even harder than the day before (stiff as a board comes to mind). I checked the pastry flour package again. “A good source of whole grains.” Damn you, Anson Mills. I blame the fiber, all 4 “holy” grams per serving. Blast.

Bargaining: Maybe if I just let it rise a little longer everything will be okay. It’s 85 degrees outside; that should help. Everything will be okay if I just let it rise a little longer. Please, just rise.

Depression: Dry, dense, barely edible brioche. The reality set in, storm clouds darkening further. It—literally—rained in my apartment (again, I am not kidding). I went off in search of my secret stash of saltwater taffy. I downloaded trashy realty TV shows featuring thin, over-privileged twenty-somethings. I watched them argue over boyfriends and bad jobs. I felt fat.

Acceptance: I’m still struggling with this one, occasionally regressing back to anger and depression. On an intellectual level, I know pistachio taffy and Whitney Port won’t bring my brioche back. Continuing on this destructive path will only make things worse.

Ah bread, you are supposed to be a symbol for life. I acknowledge I am just not ready to fully accept this as a loss. And so I buried my failure, whirling what was left of my crummy brioche (and perhaps a little bit of my dignity) in with some summer vegetables and reincarnating it as a light, refreshing gazpacho. So there.

Be forewarned brioche, you have not seen the last of me.

Andalusian Gazpacho

1 peeled cucumber, chopped
1-2 seeded habanero peppers, chopped
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
Salt to taste
1 peach
2 cups brioche, 1" cubes
1 lemon, juice plus zest
2-3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper and red chili pepper to taste
Ice cubes

Mix first 5 ingredients; salt liberally. Let sit 30-60 minutes. Drain excess water. Squeeze peach to release its juice over brioche; let sit. Blend tomato mixture with brioche in a blender or food processor. Add peach pulp, lemon zest and juice, sherry vinegar, basil, olive oil and additional salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste. Add ice cubes (I used about 8; this will chill the gazpacho and help emulsify it). Chill.

Yield about 5 cups

I tried to strain the mixture after I was done blending, but my sieve was too small; it still was good.

I know this isn't a traditional Andalusian gazpacho, but it is what I was working with this day. This is a recipe to definitely taste as you go to get the seasoning right.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss! I must say though - I was dying laughing at this post!

  2. I totally understand your loss. I thought I was the only person that suffers from this. I even tried multiple recipes...failed :(

  3. Fun and fearless: Yes, it was bittersweet working through this post. Claude really was an awesome fish. I'm sure he is happy that you enjoyed the post, swimming around in the great big fishbowl in the sky. ;)

    Joy: You'll have to keep me posted if you master the brioche! I am bruised, but not beaten.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I'm glad you found redemption in your gazpacho. RIP Claude.

  5. we all have our dense, buttery ghosts. :) i hope the next attempt works out better--try, try again! excellent blog, by the way--i enjoy the way you write. :)

  6. It's so sad when a fish dies unexpectedly. It sounds like it may have been an Act of Cod.