This wonderful cookie is inspired by the cornmeal butter cookies made by Italian bakers in Italy and America alike. I first sampled a cornmeal cookie many moons ago in a small Italian bakery in San Francisco.
As I recall, the bakery featured half a dozen or more varieties of cornmeal cookies. I was enthralled because the notion of adding cornmeal to cookie dough had never occurred to me. (This was before all the great Italian baking books that widened our horizons a few years later.)
I loved the corn flavor and the open, crunchy texture immediately. Since then, I’ve created many riffs on this traditional cookie, but this is my new favorite.
TECHNIQUE NOTE To make these cookies extra easy, I used my favorite, no hassle shaping technique, which does, however, require a #70 scoop (available in kitchenware stores). If you prefer to roll the dough out on a lightly floured pastry cloth using a cloth covered rolling pin, and then cut them out with cookie cutters, that is certainly an option.
BAKING NOTE For best results, cookies should be COLD when they go into the oven. Otherwise, they may spread too much. Always give cookies plenty of space to spread regardless, at least an inch between cookies. Baking times are APPROXIMATE. Correct baking times are critical to the success of your cookies.
Test your oven and pan setup with a few cookies to start with and watch the timing closely. Dark pans bake faster than light pans or air-sandwiched pans. Silicon mat-lined pans bake faster than parchment-lined pans. Cookies that are rolled to 1/8-inch thick bake faster than cookies rolled to ¼-inch thick. And your oven may be running hot or cold. There are so many variables. Do test a couple of cookies first. It may save an entire batch later.
2½ cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup fine cornmeal
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
coarsely ground black pepper
clear sugar sprinkles (I used Wilton’s Pearlized Sprinkles)
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour add the cornmeal and salt. Whisk the mixture well to evenly distribute. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the almond extract, pepper, and rosemary, and incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Using a #70 scoop (1 tablespoon) with a release mechanism, scoop balls of dough, leveling each ball with the edges of the scoop. (Thus each ball will have one flat surface.)
- You can arrange the dough balls closely together on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for as long as a couple of days, or proceed immediately to baking.
- Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange 12 cookie balls, flat sides down, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheet.
- Lay a sheet of waxed paper over the cookies and using a meat pounder or other heavy, flat object, gently flatten each cookie ball to a ¼-inch thickness.
- Coarsely grind black pepper over each cookie and then sprinkle each cookie with clear sprinkles.
- Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for about 15 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
- Remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store airtight, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.
Makes about 6 dozen, 2¼-inch diameter cookies.
Copyright 2009 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.