January 15, 2008
[Italian Cornmeal Cookies]
We all have our siren ingredients, those that call to us in voices of sugar from the printed page of a cookbook -- or the pixelated page of a food blog -- and charm us into dropping whatever we're doing to run to the kitchen and reenact the recipe.
Cornmeal is one of my sirens, and I find it particularly beguiling in baked goods*. This is the only way I can explain such a short TTO (time to oven) for this cookie recipe, which I chanced upon last week on Ivonne's fine blog, Cream Puffs in Venice.
Crumiri, sometimes spelled krumiri, are traditional Italian cookies that hail from the Piedmont region. The origin of the name is hazy: crumiro means strikebreaker, so that can't be it, and while some say the cookies were named after a Tunisian liqueur called Krumiro (or Krumiria, presumably like the Maghreb region) that the baker-inventor liked to swill, the Internet knows nothing about this mysterious beverage. No matter.
These cookies can take on different shapes, but they generally wear a ridged outfit, created by the star-shaped tip of a piping bag. Alas, I am a poorly equipped baker and my flimsy piping bag did not resist the assault of such a thick dough**. After a brief but irritating struggle, I resigned myself to forming vague lumps.
Aside from this minor hurdle, these are precisely my kind of cookie: crumbly, with the teasing crunch of cornmeal between your teeth, delicately flavored, and not too sweet. And in keeping with the regional theme, I have found them to be ideal companions to a scoop of homemade Nutella ice cream***.
The recipe Ivonne posted comes from a book called Italian Baking Secrets, written by an Italian priest; I modified it to reduce the amount of butter and sugar slightly. If you want to make ridged ones, make sure you use a professional-grade piping bag and tip that won't burst and poop out on you. I'm just saying.
** It has to be thick, otherwise the ridges will just soften and melt away in the oven.
*** Yes: before it became a world-renowned addictive substance full of transfats, Nutella was a piedmontese specialty known as pasta gianduja.
- 180 g (1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 140 g (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons) sugar (I use unrefined cane sugar)
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or 1/8 teaspoon seeds scraped from a real vanilla bean
- 240 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 110 g (2/3 cup) stone-ground cornmeal
Makes about four dozen two-bite cookies.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cornmeal. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be thick.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 2-cm (3/4-inch) star-shaped nozzle, and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet to create the shape of your choice (such as a horseshoe, a stick, or a small "V", "S", or "O"). Make sure you keep the cookies small and give them a little room to expand.
If you don't own a piping bag or worse, if you own a shoddy one, plop rounded teaspoons of the dough onto the baking sheet.
Slip into the oven and bake for 12 to 16 minutes (depending on the size and shape of the cookies), until pale golden around the edges. Let stand on the baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely. The cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container.
Variations: Replace the vanilla with high-quality almond extract or finely grated lemon or orange zest. Or follow Vanessa's lead and half-dip the cookies in bittersweet chocolate.
Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Coconut Whipped Cream