Yesterday, the first of the bake-off entries was finally judged by this here Cookie Queen and her beloved Grizzled. Lamblets partook in the tastings, but their findings will not be entered into the final analysis. They are not yet 18 and could skew the results with unfettered minds, no preconceived ideas...
Let us begin!
First of all, kudos go out to Mandos for superior packing or plain old luck. His shipment arrived (FIRST!!!) in a box that as Grizzled said, looked like it had been shipped at the bottom of the airfreight container. Even the lovely snowflake tin was semi-smooshed, but his goods were in fine shape.
Mandos submitted 3 bake-off items. The oft seen brownie, with separately packed frosting, an Asian brittle (AG, I know you said this is not a baked item, but give it a chance, give it a try. Plus, were you not open to ethnic variations and interpretations???) and some mysterious treat entitled, "Egg Sweet".
We open, we sniffed, we nibbled. We tried the brownie. It was a fine brownie. Nothing I'd write home about, but a solid brownie. I think I was almost more in love with the frosting which seemed to have bits of nuts in it and had a delicate almond aftertaste.
Grizzled LOVED the brownies, he being a fan of the leathery brownie, none of this springy cake-like stuff for him. He liked the fact that they had a strong cocoa flavor and were not too sweet. He preferred them without the frosting and was glad he had a choice.
Next we move on to the Asian Brittle. Oh my. I like a little brittle, but generally a little goes a long way. There are usually too few nuts and too much candy coating. Not in this case. Mandos made a truly stellar and complex brittle. It was bursting with cashews and almonds. To the best of my knowledge it also had sesame seeds, sesame sticks and some sort of freeze-dried or fried pea. Drizzled over this combination was a lovely brittle coating, but not too much. It was just the right amount to give the other ingredients a little sweetness and added crunch. The best part however, was the occasional bursts of hot chili. At least that's what I think it was. Every once in awhile you'd get this gentle buzz of heat spreading over your tongue, cutting the sweetness of the brittle and blending oh so nicely with the nuts. If anything, Grizzled and I thought it could have used more. The heat with the sweet and other ingredients was truly a delicious mix.
Last, but not least we tried Mandos' Egg Sweet. This is supposedly a top secret family dish that was guarded by his mother. While Mandos originally described it as custardy, it really falls somewhere between a really moist macaroon and a lemon square in texture. It was delicious. Again, surprisingly not too sweet even though Mandos swore there was enough sugar to blow off the heads of bland Americans. Maybe I'm not as bland as I thought. :)
The Egg Sweet's flavor is predominantly almond, a subtle, delicate almond that worked well with the eggy accompaniment. I am guessing that the texture and flavor of the treat were due to using ground almonds as a flour of sorts. And as if that weren't enough, each little morsel was topped with its own individual almond.
Mandos scored well with the western judges. He backed up his talk with solid entries... what AG and UC have to say, we'll have to wait and see!
I'll be posting according to the order in which we receive the entries. Next up... CLAIRE!!!