One unassuming weekday morning, I logged into my regular email. Waiting in my inbox was a message from a friend containing a link with this caption: “I mean…come on!”. The link was to a post from Ambitious Kitchen, featuring a cookie recipe with a name so outrageous that I nearly fell out of my chair: Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies. Chocolate chip cookies made with brown butter, then stuffed with Nutella, then baked, then finished with a flourish of course sea salt. Oh no she didn’t! As luck would have it, I had nearly every ingredient in the recipe on hand, so there was nothing left to do but buy some chocolate chip morsels and recreate this decadent dessert. This one looked just too good not to try.
For our first Ethnic Exploration of the year, we are waffling between two different countries. In fact, some of you may know Chrystal rang in 2012 in Barcelona. While I was home slumping on the couch, she was eating exotic dishes, checking out historic sites, and gallivanting around the city. From the snapshots she shared with me of her trip, it was clear she experienced plenty of incredible eats, even describing one tapas dish as “the best mussels she’s ever tasted in her entire life. Ever.” Wow! That was a pretty bold statement, I thought. With praises like that, we clearly had to explore a couple of elements of Spanish cuisine this month. There was really no other choice!
We often receive emails about new products to try, and most of the time, we are game for the challenge. Recently, a representative of Tamarin shot an email our way offering a jar of the new product. This was a new product to hit the States after making its European debut in 2008. The thick spread is based on the popular Speculoos–a traditional Belgian wafer cookie flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger made especially for St. Nicolas Day in December. The same flavor notes appear in the spread, especially the scent and taste of spices. Due to the popularity of the cookie, it’s easy to find them year round. Having never tasted one of these cookies, it is difficult to fully understand how good they may be, so perhaps that’s where Tamarin comes in. It was time to give it a test in the kitchen.
There is one ingredient that causes friction between us. You could sit around and guess all day, but you’d probably never get it right, so we’ll just tell you. It’s black pepper. Amir loves it. I do not. Whenever we’re cooking together, no doubt one person will want to add pepper, and the other half will not. We can go into the reason for this another time if you’d really like to know, but right now we’re talking about how pepper works specifically in these cookies. Oh yes, there is black pepper in them and on them. Squint a bit, and you can see the black flecks sitting on top. Who would’ve known that black pepper could make a dessert blast off into the atmosphere like a NASA spaceship!
There are so many recipes that we want to try. It’s hard to find the time to do them all. Maybe you’ve had the same problem? If you’ve read through a lot of our recipes, you’ll notice we love to use a lot of the same things in our recipes: citrus and fresh herbs. Either on their own or combined, the power of citrus and herb is equivalent to Superman–they work hard for the sake of all that is good. We cannot get enough! We’ve combined the two in many salads, dressings and marinades, baked and fried meats, etc., but we’ve rarely done so for baked goods. We wanted to mix the subtle, aromatic flavor of thyme with the brightness of lemon for this trial. That coupling is nothing new, as it’s been used with roast chicken and potatoes, sorbet, grilled fish, pork belly, crème brulée and even vodka cocktails. We decided on the simple route though. A cookie.
There are many ways to replicate a favorite food or drink in the form of a cookie. Cakes, pies and even cocktails are popular starting points. We’ve already done carrot cake cookies, which are very popular. We have a few more on the list we’d like to try like apple pie, strawberry shortcake, lemon meringue and pecan pie too. We decided to start with german chocolate cake. We found a recipe that seemed like it’d work just perfectly with a few tweaks, and so we got to work adapting a new version. Into the oven went lovely mounds of chocolate batter, but what came out wasn’t exactly what we expected to see or taste.
It’s true: we love watching The Food Network just as much as the next foodie. You’re flipping through the channels, and next think you know Tyler Florence is making crab cakes. Omg, they look so good! What kind of spices does he use? Does he bake or fry? We gotta know! Mainly, so when we make them ourselves (which will probably happen that same night), and so we can add our own Duo specialness to them (no offense Tyler–sure yours are bangin’ though). Who doesn’t like watching Paula add a stick of butter to everything? Or see Ina bust out her Kitchen Aid? That’s all well and good, but there’s really only one reason to watch these personalities for us–the food! If you’re not going to cook it, what’s the point? And watching Food Network just gets us so excited to cook whatever it is they’re cookin’ on the TV. It’s only a matter of time before seeing all the fresh, savory, beautiful foods sizzle, pop, and shine before the television is clicked off and the cooking apron is tied on. That’s right. We use aprons, and they’re monogrammed too.