They’re not entirely much to look at, these little cornmeal cookies. I mean, they’re cute. Ish. A nice yellow color. But no flashy icings or drizzles or nutty mix-ins. No chocolate to speak of. These cookies, though, they’re keepers. They’re interesting (in a not-at-all-snarky way, I mean). They’re not entirely sweet, but they’re not entirely savory. More cookie than cracker, but just barely. Not even close to entirely spiced. Hints of ginger and cinnamon, but only hints, not slaps. Because these cookies don’t slap you until they slap you.
You’ll be sitting there on the couch, contemplating washing your hair and wondering why you ever choose a nail polish color other than Essie’s Lollipop (because it just makes you feel the best about life), and you’ll be cautiously sipping your too-hot cup of tea and planning out your grocery list for tomorrow and you’ll want a snack. Just a little something, to go with your steaming tea.
So you’ll toss a cornmeal cookie in your mouth. A whole one, because they’re quite small and because who says you have to be dainty, anyway, while you’re sitting on your own couch with crazy hair and tea? And you’ll start to chew, still thinking about groceries, but then the tiny grains of cornmeal will pop gently under your teeth and the cookie’s soft crumb will yield perfectly and your tongue will do dances with butter, with faint sweetness and traces of spice, and so you’ll stop. You’ll stop everything but the chewing, reveling in this wondrous little cookie, and when you swallow you’ll feel both happy and forlorn. So you’ll pick up another cornmeal cookie, and the process will repeat itself. Again and again, amid sips of hot tea. Until all of the tea, or possibly all of the cookies, are gone.
Do you prefer your cookies entirely sweet? Must you always have some chocolate? Do you even drink tea? And would you make an exception for a humble little cornmeal cookie?
So many questions. So many cookies. The answer, I’m pretty sure, is yes.
Inspired by Elsa’s Rye Cookies
These are really wonderful with a cup of tea. They’re well suited to a healthy drizzle of honey, if you’re big into the sweet, and I imagine they’d also be very nice with a few hunks of sharp cheddar, for a more savory snack.
- 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute all-purpose)
- 1 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 egg, gently beaten
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder and sugar.
Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until butter pieces are no larger than pea-sized. The butter should slightly moisten the dough, though it will still be very crumbly.
Add the egg and honey to the dough, working them in with a fork, then your hands, if necessary, until the dough comes together. You’ll end up with a rather crumbly dough, but it should hold together when clumped up with your hand.
Divide the dough onto three pieces of parchment paper (each piece roughly the size of a looseleaf sheet) and form the dough into three logs, each one just over 1-inch in diameter. Wrap the dough logs in parchment, keeping them nice and tight, and chill the logs in the refrigerator for a few hours (and up to three days).
Once ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment.
Unwrap one dough log at a time, and slice logs into cookies, 1/2-inch thick. Place cookies on prepared pan, leaving 1/2-inch between each, and bake 6-8 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centers look dry. Only bake one sheet of cookies at a time — you will need to work in batches if you want to bake more than 1 log at a time.
Allow cookies to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, serve with generous amounts of honey, jam, citrus curd or clotted cream.
Makes about 75 small (1 1/2-inch diameter) cookies.