I’m on the fabulous Gastropod podcast! Talking about my new book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine!
In this episode, Lohman introduces us to the historical and biological secrets behind two of those winning flavors: black pepper and sriracha. Black pepper is such a staple that it’s hard to imagine the American dinner table without it. But we have a grumpy Massachusetts colonial-era merchant and his much friendlier son, as well as the Food Network and a pain-inducing chemical called piperine, to thank for the spice’s ubiquity today.
Sriracha is the latest addition to the American flavor palate, with everything from sriracha-flavored potato chips to sriracha baby food sweeping the market. But how on earth did a Vietnamese spicy sauce used to pep up roast dog become a staple on the shelves of Walmart? Join us this episode as we find out the history and science behind these flavors’ successes—and survive our first, and, we hope, only, black pepper tasting session.
On the podcast, I talk about Martha Washington’s recipe “To Make Pepper Cakes That Will Keep Good in Ye House for a Quarter or Halfe a Year.” If you’d like to read about my experiences with that recipe, and see the finished cakes, go here.
And below is a recipe for a delicious modernized version from my book, Black Pepper Brown Sugar Cookies. I choose to use Sarawak peppercorns from Indonesia, as the pepper has notes of citrus and coriander that lend itself well to desserts. In fact, we notes its sweetness when we taste tested it on Gastropod, and its packaging noted it paired well with sweet creams and fruits. But any black pepper you have will work for this recipe. The result is a chewy cookie, speckled with pretty bits of black pepper.
Black Pepper Brown Sugar Cookies
Recipe modernized from Martha Washington’s A Book of Cookery.
Yield: makes 3 to 4 dozen, depending on the size of the cookie
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to top the cookies
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice of 1/2 an orange (about 1/4 cup)
2 large eggs
- In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients and spices.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, sugar, and orange zest.
Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high until light in color.
Add the orange juice, and then add eggs one at a time, beating well
after each addition.
- With mixer on low, add the dry ingredients slowly. Stop and scrape
the bowl, then continue mixing until combined. Divide dough in half,
wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured work surface
and with a floured rolling-pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a pepper grinder, crack fresh pepper over the surface of the dough and then
gently press the pepper in with the rolling-pin.
- Cut into desired shapes using a cookie cutter or knife. Bake on a
cookie sheet 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway
through, until the cookies are brown around the edges. Allow to cool
completely on wire racks.