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Dill-licious or no big dill? Testing pickle desserts, 2018's hottest food trend

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For the pickle taste test, we added chopped pickles to this strawberry rhubarb cookie recipe. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service2 / 6
Pickle fries are a popular appetizer, but we made it a dessert by adding peanut butter frosting as dip. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service3 / 6
Forum employees Austin Howard, Tracy Briggs and Emma Vatnsdal react to pickle desserts during a recent taste test. Forum News Service4 / 6
Covering pickles in chocolate and sprinkles is one option for serving pickles for dessert. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service5 / 6
Pickles have become all the rage in desserts in 2018, including these pickle cupcakes. Chris Flynn / Forum News Service6 / 6

FARGO — We just can't leave well enough alone, can we?

When it comes to dessert, who doesn't like sweetly decadent choices like caramel, chocolate, marshmallows and hot fudge? Whose big idea was it to add the dill pickle to the list?

The recent pickle dessert craze isn't the first time someone had the grand idea to turn dessert on its ear. The marriage of salty and sweet might might have started in 1544 when a German baker invented the chocolate-covered pretzel. Closer to home, Widman's Candy, founded in Crookston, Minn., in 1911, ran with the salty-sweet combo by inventing Chippers, chocolate-covered potato chips now synonymous with the Red River Valley.

In the early 2000s, bacon lovers rejoiced when the salty pork started getting featured more and more in cakes, ice cream or just candied on the side, thank you very much.

But in 2018, foodies have taken it to a whole new level by insisting pickles, full of salt and vinegar, go where no gherkin has gone before — the sweet end of the meal. The cliched choice for pregnant women for generations, pickles and ice cream are no longer a crazy craving but a hot food trend. Maybe these expectant moms have been on to something all along. But how do you make pickles dessert?

You don't need to search Pinterest very long to find sweet recipes that use pickles in a starring role alongside sugar, flour and vanilla extract. Earlier this month, fast-food chain Sonic Drive-In jumped on the bandwagon by selling a Pickle Juice Slushie.

The slushie was met with mixed reviews. I tried one from the Sonic in Fargo. It was lime green and definitely smelled like pickles. But when I took a sip, it reminded me of lime Gatorade with a little pickle juice mixed in. Meh. Not as gross as it sounds, but I don't think I'll order another.

What about other pickle desserts? I chose a few pickle sweet treats, prepared them at home and convinced my co-workers Emma Vatsndal and Austin Howard to try it with me. (It should be noted that both Emma and Austin are new to The Forum, and apparently have not been warned by more experienced co-workers that they should delete all emails from me with the subject line: "Hey guys, do you want to do something fun?") They were good sports.

Check out our video on www.inforum.com see which treats they deemed "Dill-licious," "It'll Dill," or "Dillsgusting."

The bottom line for all of these recipes, even the not-so-bad ones, is this: The world is full of delectable ingredients to use in desserts. The pickle is just not one of them. No big dill. We still have candied bacon.

Here's a look at what we sampled.

Pickle fries with peanut butter frosting

Pickle fries are a popular choice as appetizers at some restaurants, and they're pretty fabulous. But I think they miss the mark when you try to turn them into dessert by adding sugary frosting as a dip. I'd have to agree with one co-worker who remarked, "That looks pretty disgusting, but I bet that peanut butter frosting would be good on toast." A taste test for another day, perhaps.

Chocolate-covered bread-and-butter pickles

Bread-and-butter pickles are sweeter than the dill pickle, so the sweetness is amped up further when dipped in chocolate. While it looked pretty cool, the taste left us wanting ... mostly wanting anything else dipped in chocolate.

Candied pickles

These pickles are made by cooking pickles in a simple syrup. We found them super sticky and not that tasty, almost like having a cough drop for dessert.

All three of these recipes got a thumbs-down from our taste testers. The following two desserts received fairly positive reviews, so I'm including the recipes should you want to give it a shot.

Pickle Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 12

You had me at bourbon cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes are a pretty standard sour cream and butter cupcake with bits of chopped pickles mixed into the batter. The frosting is rich and decadent, and the bourbon somewhat masks the taste of the pickle juice. The cake itself had a mild pickle flavor and was one of our two favorite recipes of the day.

Ingredients:

• For the cupcakes:

• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup sour cream

• 2 eggs

• 1/4 cup dill pickle juice

• 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles

• For the frosting:

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

• 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

• 2 cups powdered sugar

• 3 tablespoons bourbon

• Pinch of salt

• Pickle slices, for garnish

• Directions:

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

• In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add sour cream and pickle juice and beat until evenly mixed. Stir in the flour mixture and chopped pickles until just combined.

• Scoop about ¼ cup of batter into each cupcake liner and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

• Meanwhile, make the frosting. In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, bourbon and salt and beat until smooth.

• Spread frosting onto each cupcake and garnish with a pickle slice.

• Recipe courtesy: Delish.com

Strawberry Rhubarb Pickle Pinwheel Cookies

Yields 54 cookies

Strawberry rhubarb is a staple of early summer in the Midwest, but I decided to see what it would be like to mix this classic combo with a wacky food fad. I took the recipe and substituted pickle juice for the water and added chopped pickles in the batter along with the fruit. This was one of our favorites. But as a matter of full disclosure, we probably liked it because we didn't taste any pickle flavor in the cookie — just delightful strawberry and rhubarb. Whether you use the pickles or not, this was a good cookie.

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced rhubarb (1/4 inch thick)

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

¼ cup chopped dill pickle

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons water (or pickle juice)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

For the filling, in a medium saucepan, stir together rhubarb, strawberries (and chopped pickles if you're using them), granulated sugar and cold water (or pickle juice). Cook, covered, about 5 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.

Stir together water and cornstarch, and stir into the rhubarb mixture. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Set aside to cool.

For the dough, in a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add flour, baking soda and salt; beat well.

Divide dough in half. Roll half between sheets of waxed paper to a 12x10-inch rectangle. Remove top sheet of waxed paper. Spread half of filling on dough. Beginning at one long side, roll up and seal ends and edge of dough. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours or freeze dough. If necessary, reshape the log of dough before slicing.

Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 10 minutes.

Recipe based on Strawberry Rhubarb Pinwheel Cookies from Midwest Living

Tracy Briggs

Tracy Briggs is a former TV anchor/radio host currently working as a features writer and video host for Forum Communications.

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