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- More from Annie Overboe
Picnic desserts pose special challenges to even the most seasoned baker.
Frosted cakes and cupcakes require a cooler to prevent meltdown from summer heat and brownies and bars often become a jumble from being jostled during transport.
That's why I turn to cookies as an easy, alfresco treat. Not just any cookie, though. A picnic cookie has to offer firm structure that can take a tumble without crumbling. And it can't have any stir-ins, glazes or toppings that can't handle the heat of a summer day.
I also look for a cookie recipe that fits the season. Peanut butter, molasses and chocolate varieties have their place during the cool seasons; warmer weather calls for an easy and breezy cookie; something with interesting texture and casual flavors.
By default then, the base recipe needed to be a sugar cookie. Lemon and citrus flavors came first to mind, but these usual additions felt over played. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for while digging through my cookie recipes, but I knew I would recognize it when I found it.
What started out as a simple search evolved into an entire day of unearthing long forgotten recipes. My collection includes clippings dating back to the 1940s and a special section of recipes I call "the culinary wild side." These recipes stand out from tried-and-true standards by introducing or utilizing ingredients not usually tapped for desserts; recipes that bring together diverse flavors or textures or call for unorthodox mixing or baking methods.
It was in that section that I came across potato chip cookies, a faded recipe from a '60s county fair winners circle. The recipe's a little out there; but not so wild as to turn off the taste buds.
When introducing unusual ingredients into recipes bakers don't to it just for shock value; the ingredient must contribute to the finished dessert. Crushed potato chips provide a dual benefit. First, the crispy chips add depth and texture to a basic sugar cookie, and secondly, a perhaps more importantly, the salt actually enhances the sweet flavors and bakes in a contrasting background taste.
This salt/sweet pairing has been gaining traction in the pastry circles of late. Unlike salt stirred into dry ingredients melding into the dough, salt added in the form of crushed potato chips keeps partially intact, allowing the taste buds to enjoy the salt.
Before you add the crumbs from your bag of sour cream and onion or salt and vinegar chips to your next sugar cookie, remember the selections available in the late 1960s. First try this cookie with regular or ruffled chips. The original recipe called for toasted diced pecans; I liked a mix of pecans and walnuts.
So don't fret if a bag of potato chips gets crushed on the way to the picnic; they'll make it to the next one in these cookies.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.