LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
One of the pleasures of eating is the taste of something different. Sometimes the food is rare and exotic, or it looks familiar but has a flavor that can't quite be identified. At other times, familiar flavors are combined in unexpected ways. Well, WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf has discovered some surprising sweets lately.
BONNY WOLF: Pettifors and potato chips on the same plate; sounds disgusting but strangely it's not. We do don't raise an eyebrow at carrot cake or peanut butter cookies. No one is alarmed by pumpkin pie. But suggest a nice slice of sauerkraut cake with that cup of coffee and just see the response you get. I was at an event where the woman who had baked 300 cookies came over with a tray, picked one out, handed it to me and said try this. I bit into what looked like an innocent sugar cookie. It had a crunch and slightly salty taste. That's because it was a potato chip cookie. Bet you can't eat just one.
Finding savory or other unusual ingredients in sweet baked goods was not uncommon 100 years ago, when frugal housewives used every leftover bit of food. And along the way, they learned some things. Mashed potatoes make cakes moist. They also give them body and a nice, smooth texture, and the cake doesn't taste anything like mashed potatoes, which is a good thing.
And sauerkraut does not make cakes taste like fermented cabbage. Apparently the acid acts as a tenderizer and the kraut disintegrates. Mayonnaise is an unlikely ingredient for cake recipe. Makes sense though, since mayo is mostly eggs and oil. There are recipes for cakes with beets and zucchini, and many for those made with 7-Up or Coke, regular and diet. And tomato soup spice cake has long been a favorite. With retro foods being trendy, such recipes may be back.
Scharffen Berger - one of the companies that gave dark chocolate the same status as fine wine - has a cocoa-based sauerkraut cake on its Web site. My friend Mary says it's fabulous.
Then I started to think. I've made wonderful cakes with Guinness Stout and I love olive oil cake. I've become a big fan of chocolate desserts spiced with hot chilies. The other night, I had a piece of polenta cake with lavender that was to die for. Are these any stranger than potato chip cookies?
HANSEN: Washington Post columnist Bonny Wolf is author of "Talking With My Mouth Full." She's also a contributing editor for Kitchen Windows, NPR's online food column. Recipes for potato chip cookies can be found at npr.org.