Cornmeal is simply not used enough in sweets.
There, I said it: eat more cornmeal.
I like soft polenta (mush) and hard polenta (either – like oatmeal – taste sooo much better when made with milk instead of water). I like cheesy grits and creamy polenta. I like it with bits of smoky bacon and fried fresh sage leaves too. I like upside-down cranberry cornmeal cake and cornmeal cranberry loaf – actually anything with cornmeal & cranberries. As in those cookies.
I wanted to bake some cookies for a fundraiser lunch at the Washington Volunteer Fire & Rescue. Chewy Chocolate chip cookies always go, coconut bars don’t last either (so I make them) but I also wanted something appealing yet a little different, something that would get your attention.
I often turn to Martha Stewart when I need sweet baking ideas. No fail that time again, the “Cornmeal Thyme Cookies” caught my attention. I thought I would add more of a Northeast seasonal twist by replacing the raisins by dried cranberries. I would also introduce a lemon teaser, both by choosing lemon thyme and adding a little lemon oil to the dough.
Note on butter: if you use melted butter, the cookies will spread more as they bake. Give them room to spread on your baking sheet! If you are using soft butter, the cookies will be thicker and have a smaller foot-print. Either are good, it’s just a different look.
Note on cornmeal: remember that the coarser the grind, the more “grainy” the batter will be. I have made some cookies using both Bob’s Red Mill Polenta and a much finer (almost local) corn meal. Polenta meal yields a more rustic cookie; the finer corn meal a smoother one. Again, both are good, just a different texture.
Note on how they tasted: they all disappear at the bake sale (while we had extra brownies and chocolate chip cookies left). I had to make another batch for the following day! (of course, somebody called them “froufrou cookies”… ssshh…)
Cornmeal Cranberry Lemon Thyme Cookies
Yield: 3 to 4 dozens cookies
- 1 3/4 cup (230 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (125g) stone-ground yellow cornmeal (choose your grind; see note above)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks/230 g) unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 1/4 cup (290 g) sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon oil
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh lemon thyme
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, cornmeal, and salt.
- In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar together using a hand held mixer (or a wire whisk and wrist power) on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add lemon oil and mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Add flour mixture; mix on low speed until just combined. Mix in cranberries and thyme with a wooden spoon (the dough will be thick & heavy).
- Drop balls of batter onto the lined sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart (the bigger the balls, the more space you should leave). Bake, rotating and switching positions of sheets midway through, until pale golden, 10 to 14 minutes. Let cool for just a few minute on the baking sheet until hard enough to handle without breaking. Using a spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Locavore log: eggs from our chicken, thyme from the garden, butter from our cow share, corn meal from Pennsylvania.