The Brunch Dish: Brunch in a Cup at SCRATCHbread in Bed-Stuy
When I first heard about SCRATCHbread's "brunch in a cup," I have to admit that my brain did a few rather skeptical somersaults. But then again, it didn't hurt that the weather has been particularly fine, or that founder Matthew Tilden named this novel concept STOOPbrunch, implying that his creations are meant to be consumed while sitting outside, basking in the sun. At $5, it certainly seemed well worth investigating. I picked up all three daily specials at the bakery's window in Bed-Stuy this Sunday (for roughly the same amount of money that I would normally spend on a single sit-down brunch), and I can confidently report that these messy paper cup-fulls of hearty brunch servings are not only a steal—they kind of blew my mind.
I took my first bite out of the aptly named Hot Sticky Mess, made from SCRATCHbread's focaccia dough baked in a burnt orange caramel with chai spices, chilies, and black pepper. The bread is then soaked in vanilla bean custard and tossed on the griddle. The result is sticky bun meets French toast: sweet, soft, and a little gooey, with a grownup punch of spiciness at the finish. The custard adds an almost brie-like note that had me gleefully reeling, and the cup is topped off with vinegar- and agave-poached blueberries that add warm, juicy bursts of acidity to each bite. Toward the bottom of the cup, I also unearthed some slices of candied orange peel, which made happy little echos of the focaccia glaze and plastered a pretty wide (sticky) smile across my face.
For those with a more savory brunch in mind, there was also the somewhat self-explanatory Tomato, Egg, and Bread. A thick, chunky soup—made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, and the whey from SCRATCHbread's house-made mozzarella—seeps into a generous chunk of fresh bread at the bottom of the cup. Two well cooked soft boiled eggs were nestled in the sauce, a good sign that these guys definitely know what they're doing. Several massive sweet chunks of roasted garlic were also welcome discoveries, and were so soft they spread like butter. Once you pierce the eggs and release that gorgeous cascade of bright yellow yolk, the whole combination melts into a rich, complex breakfast stew, with just enough texture to not be mushy.
The third cup, Chunky Oat Scenario, takes SCRATCHbread's signature oatmeal chunkies—moist muffins composed of a variety of oats and grains—and mashes them up in a hefty dollop of house crème fraîche or vanilla bean yogurt, depending on what's on hand. It's stirred up with an impressive range of ingredients, including fresh apples, poached blueberries, dates, hazelnuts, pecans, flax, and pumpkin seeds. Collectively, it's a crazy mess of nutty, earthy crunchiness, with bright flashes of sweetness from the fruit. With the added seasoning of agave and sea salt, it feels a little like the flavors are performing Dance Dance Revolution on your tongue. That's a good thing, by the way.
I could continue to wax rhapsodic about the various sides I sampled (including a greasy hunk of hand-cut slow roasted bacon and a buttery shortbread), but with a constantly revolving menu of daily specials, you should really just go and see for yourself. It's possible that STOOPbrunch has fundamentally redefined the parameters of morning take-out. Keep in mind that the brunch cup is currently only available on Sundays, but SCRATCHbread's new seven day schedule means we can definitely expect more stoop-friendly treats, along with an array of housemade fresh juices and Stumptown coffee.
About the author: Niki Achitoff-Gray is the associate editor of Serious Eats and a recent graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She's pretty big into oysters, offal, and most edible things. You can follow her on Twitter at @eatandcry.