Blog Cornmeal Cookies
This week's recipe is for what you could call an all-American cookie; it's made with finely ground kernels of corn, which is actually a kind of domesticated grass native to the Americas. In my estimation, cornmeal is an indispensable pantry staple—there are so many dishes, from hearty winter chili to a summertime plate of barbecued ribs, that just aren't complete without a big square of moist, tender cornbread sitting alongside. I also like the sweet crunch cornmeal adds to pancake batter and fried seafood batter. And I love it in these buttery cookies, brightened with lemon zest and baked just until crisp. As you'd expect for such a popular grain, corn is ground into myriad products. Here are five of the most common:
• Corn Flour—Dried corn kernels ground to a fine, powdery consistency and used in some baked goods and batter for fried food. (In England, the term "corn flour" is used for what we call corn starch, something to keep in mind if you are baking a British recipe.)
• Masa Harina—A type of corn flour produced by boiling and soaking corn kernels, then making them into dough, and drying and pulverizing the dough. It's used for tortillas, tamales, and corn chips.
• Polenta—Yellow or white cornmeal that is used for the Italian dish of the same name. It can be fine or coarsely ground.
• Steel-Ground Cornmeal—The most common type in supermarkets, this cornmeal doesn't contain the germ or hulls, so it can be stored longer than whole-grain cornmeal.
• Stone-Ground Cornmeal—Made using the old-fashioned method of crushing between large stone disks, this cornmeal contains the germ and hull, which makes it more nutritious and more perishable than steel-ground cornmeal. It may be labeled fine, medium, or coarse-ground.
Though I love the nubby texture that stone-ground cornmeal lends baked goods, in these cookies plain old supermarket cornmeal (the finely ground variety) is the best candidate for the job, adding a pronounced, but not overwhelming, crunch. As for the shapes, in recognition of the upcoming November elections, I baked these all-American cookies using our Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant cookie cutters. Though the cookies are perfect plain, they take well to a thin layer of lemon frosting.