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Apr 6, 2008 09:17 PM

03/08 Savory Elements in Cookies and Desserts : Experiences?

Over the past few years I have become more interested in savory elements in desserts. My interest started years ago when Jeremiah Tower explained to an audience how he had discovered that Basil really Complements Pears - when he peeled pears after handling some basil. My first savory dessert recipe has become a regular for me- Lemon Thyme Ginger Cookies. A few years ago I had a lovely Curried Lemon Cheesecake that really blew my mind. Last week in San Francisco, at Cortez restaurant, I had a delicious rosemary caramel popcorn ( and I normally HATE rosemary because it's always used too heavily. ) Also last week I had a Candy Cap Mushroom Bread Pudding dessert at the Martini House in St. Helena, Ca. It was wonderful. And we have all seen the myriad chocolate bars(Vosges etc.) and other chocolate desserts containing chilis, chipotles, curry powder, lemongrass, etc.etc.

I posted the other day about a recipe I have for Candy Cap Mushroom Cookies. No one has responded . But do any of you have other recipes that you like(or even just desserts you have eaten) that include savory elements? I think my definition of savory is 'components that are not normally associated with desserts'. Now, I must clarify a little. Adzuki and other beans, taro and yams, are all typical components in Asian ( and some Latin) desserts. Swedes use caraway seeds in some sweet breads. Candied fennel is commonly found in European desserts.Sweet 'mouth refreshers' after an Indian meal- contain fennel seeds, and Indian desserts are often based on lentils and carrots.
So my search does NOT include those dishes, because they are already well known sweets in their country of origin. I am also not looking for way-out combos that don't work.
I am just interested in what you have found that's a delicious (or even that sounds delicious to you.)sweet that contains savory components.
I have a feeling this thread will not have many replies but I'm still hoping I'm wrong!!
Thanks much for your input.

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  1. I've put cardamom in brownies and I thought they turned out very well. A couple foodies loved them. Alas, my other coworkers are not very adventurous. Usually my baked goods are gone in a flash but I had 1/3 pan remaining that day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinkamoeba

      Hmm, I never thought of cardamom as savory. I usually like it in anything that would normally include cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

    2. I often add cayenne pepper to my brownies. I incorporate the cayenne with the flour before mixing it in with the chocolate.

      Recently, I made this sesame cake from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert. Not only were there toasted sesame seeds but there was also sesame oil. It was an unusual flavor that just got better with time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: beetlebug

        I loved the sesame coins from that book. They definitely got better with time. I had to get rid of the extras because I couldn't control myself with them around.

        Not sure I understand the distinction between traditional spices in dessert and otherwise. A lot of spices are used somewhere in some sort of dessert, but paired a bit unexpectly - like fennel in an apple strudel or a chocolate dessert can be lovely.

        I love star anise and chocolate together, cardamom and chocolate. Cardamom of course is traditionally used in desserts, so perhaps that doesn't count and so is star anise. Lemon and herbs of all sorts go together - I often put thyme in my lemon desserts too. Is lavender savory? I put that in a lot of things, paired often with fruit. Black pepper and blueberries is good, and course the overused blueberries and ginger.

        1. re: jsaimd

          I made strawberry jelly with cracked black peppercorns. I loved it and it was great with soft cheeses or pates.

      2. Is candied fennel (clarification - I'm assuming you mean the vegetable, and not the seed) really that common in European desserts? I had no idea. I thought it was a newfangled quasi-molecular-gastronomy invention when I saw it popping up in three different restaurants on one of my trips to NYC last year.

        Claudia Fleming's desserts for Gramercy Tavern were the first ones that introduced me to savory elements in desserts. The one that really sparked my interest in herbs with desserts was a coconut tapioca with cilantro syrup (and other elements, including passionfruit sorbet).

        Thumbing through the index of her cookbook, "The Last Course", I find:
        Tarragon-Macerated Strawberry Shortcakes with Tarragon Cream
        Pink Grapefruit-Rosemary Sorbet
        Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns
        Candied Fennel with Pernod-Orange Sorbet and Pernod Whipped Cream
        Pine-Nut Tart with Rosemary
        Bay Leaf Flan
        Basil Ice Cream
        Tarragon Ice Cream
        Lemon-Thyme Sorbet
        Black Pepper Ice Cream

        This is leaving out the more "obvious" flavors, like rose, lemon verbena, mint, ginger, etc.

        In my own cooking... I frequently make rosemary-pine nut shortbread - actually, the rosemary/pine-nut combination has been very successful for me. The above rosemary-pine nut tart is great, and I've also used it in a pine nut brittle (along with chile and Maldon sea salt). Last Thanksgiving, when faced with an enormous mass of caramelized grapefruit pulp (a candy experiment gone wonderfully wrong), I added thyme and ground coriander to a standard thumbprint cookie recipe and rolled little balls of grapefruit into the middle of each one.

        There's been a great deal of chatter on bacon in desserts - bacon brittle, bacon ice cream, bacon chocolate - I quite love the Vosges bacon chocolate bar (milk chocolate, enhanced with pepper).

        I had a very successful apple charlotte with big slices of black truffle draped on it at Oliveto in Oakland this year.

        That's all I can think of for now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: daveena

          gee, thank you daveena. i need to look at her book, as many of those things sound quite interesting. i should also look at the specialty drinks menu from Aziza, because they do some interesting combos of herbs in cosmos etc.(and a very tasty Lime w/ cilantro muddled in vodka drink). if you think or find other ideas, plse do keep 'em coming.

          p.s. candied fennel- france and italy, at least, for ages......i bet scandinavia too.

        2. A friend recently made bacon/rosemary brownies. The taste was great, though the sharp, stiff rosemary leaves were a bit of a buzzkill.

          1. I have had lemon meringue pie with black pepper in the meringue. It really went well with the tartness of the lemon.