On the twelfth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Cornmeal, Black Pepper & Rosemary Butter Cookies.
After several weeks of nearly non-stop, high-intensity cookie baking, I present you with the final cookie of this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night bake-a-thon. TA DA!
In the kick off post, I set the stage for this completely new collection of cookies, most of which break rather dramatically from the traditional holiday cookies of my childhood. I really wanted to push my understanding of what makes a remarkable and thus memorable Christmas cookie. I wanted to try new and exciting flavor and texture combinations. I wanted to stretch myself as a baker. As I say in the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night kick off post, I wanted to throw tradition to the proverbial wind this holiday season.
However, I did not change my basic tenets of what makes a cookie a HOLIDAY cookie. Many cookies, perhaps MOST cookies, do not fill this bill in my estimation. Here are the tenets I presented in the Twelve Days of Christmas: Deck the Halls kick off post.
A holiday cookie must be:
- Very, very buttery
- Dry, light, tender, and/or crisp–rather than chewy or moist
- An excellent keeper (must store and/or freeze for 3+ weeks)
- Small in size, so you can serve and eat a variety
- Beautiful and festive
- Fun to make, fun to eat, fun to give
All of this year’s Christmas cookies meet these requirements. And several of them are so incredible, that I will not be able to wait until next December to bake and eat them again. The cookie you are looking at is one of those cookies.
The first words out of MauiJim’s mouth after eating this cookie and wiping the butter off his lips was, “You CANNOT share this recipe.” Then he proceeded to eat 6 more cookies, claiming they were “defective” and thus not attractive enough for the photo shoot.
In truth, he prefers the defective ones anyway. You know–the cookies that are a little too brown around the edges. He says he wishes I would overbrown all of the cookies, even though it mars their appearance. Does he think those overbrowned edges on half of the cookies happen by carelessness? Ha!
When I asked him why I shouldn’t share the recipe, he said, “WAY TOO GOOD! This one goes in the vault.” Well, I agree that these cookies are some of the best I’ve ever created, but it’s Christmas, and Christmas is about sharing your very best.
I want you to taste these amazing morsels—so light, crisp, crunchy, spicy, and redolent with fresh rosemary and cornmeal. And I can’t, unfortunately, bake them for you. So over loud protests from the love of my life, I make you this little offering, from my heart to yours. I hope these special cookies add a little spicy sparkle to your holiday festivities.
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.
Cornmeal, Black Pepper & Rosemary Butter Cookies
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 have created many riffs on this traditional cookie, but this is my new favorite.
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.