I'll get straight to the point - I liked this recipe. It had only 3 ingredients (three!) - chicken, crème fraiche and spéculoos. Specu....what?
Okay, I'll spare you the misery and tell you that these are spicy shortcrust cookies traditionally baked around Christmastime in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Spices used in spéculoos are, in different variations, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. I know this because I used to eat tons of them when I lived in Europe. Safe to say, my tastebuds have very fond memories of that time.
This week on French Fridays with Dorie saw us attempting Cinnamon Crunch Chicken. In her book, Around My French Table, Dorie explained that it is better to use store-bought rather than homemade spéculoos although she didn't clearly explain why. Was it because of the complexity of the spices, the crunchiness of the commercially-produced biscuits? I don't know but in any case, I wasn't going to traipse all over the island looking for them. Not when there's a recipe to make them out of the very same cookbook!
Below left and right: Before and after baking
So I set out to bake the spiced cookies as per Dorie's instructions (with cloves, cinnamon and ginger) and used my mooncake plunger press to cut out the shapes. Don't they just look pretty? And instead of chilling my dough in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours or overnight, I placed the rolled and cut-out dough in the freezer for 15 minutes, complete with silpat. Hey, I'm a busy woman! The cookie dough didn't rise or expand much, as you can see above. I substituted all purpose flour with whole wheat and that, I think, gave a nice texture and crispness to the baked cookies.
Here's where I sneak in my giveaway. Just wanted to see if people actually read the whole post or simply skim through the pictures and then go straight to the comments, or... or (gasp) just close the post without reading it fully nor commenting! Right, I'm giving away a mooncake plunger press like the one I was using above to anyone who writes in to let me know that they want it and what they're going to make with it if they win. The winner will be picked via (yawn) random.org and the closing date for this giveaway is on Thursday, September 22. I'll announce the winner on next week's French Fridays with Dorie post. Now let's see how many of you actually caught that. :-)
(Post update: This giveaway is now closed, a winner has been picked)
On with the recipe. Once I stirred the cookie crumbs into the crème fraiche, I found the flavor of the spices became somewhat diluted, so I liberally added more cinnamon and clove powders into the mixture. The sliced red chillies you see were not in the recipe but I thought, why not? The slight heat would balance out the sweetness of the cookies (since the spéculoos contained both regular and brown sugars, they were pretty sweet!).
I'm sorry but I have to ask, did any one of you who made this experience the 'crunch' at all? My chicken batter was more soggy rather than satisfyingly crunchy. Perhaps Dorie had a point when she recommended the store-bought versus homemade spéculoos. If I ever find spéculoos in the stores here, I will definitely give this another try.
The cinnamon-y encrusted chicken tasted delicious nevertheless, and it went very well served on a bed of saffron couscous. Yum...what more do you want me to say?
Click here to find out if the other Doristas came to a crunchy ending with their chickens. Or not.