OKAY, WE ADMIT IT: we’re a bit crazy for cornmeal, for its combination of crunch and sweetness. So when we came across a recipe for Italian Cornmeal Cookies on Clotilde Dusoulier’s delightful website, ChocolateandZucchini.com, we had to try it. Oh, yum! These cookies are mildly sweet, wonderful with tea, and very adaptable (if you like to improvise, as we do). We substituted polenta for the stoneground cornmeal, which resulted in a crunchier texture for these cake-like cookies. If you prefer something softer, use stoneground cornmeal instead of polenta.
Italian Cornmeal Cookies
(makes about 4 dozen)
Also known as crumiri, these are traditional cornmeal cookies from the Piedmont region of Italy.
1/2 cup plus 5 T. unsalted butter at
1/2 cup plus 3 T. sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups organic unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup polenta or stoneground
Preheat the oven to 350° F. and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and polenta. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be thick.
These cookies are traditionally piped onto cookie sheets, but we dispensed with that fuss and dropped the cookies by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake 12 to 14 minutes (depending on size) until pale golden along the edges. Don’t let them bake too long or they may become dry. Remove from oven, let stand 2 minutes on the sheets, then move them to a rack to cool.
Variations: Try adding chopped toasted pine nuts to the batter or spread a glaze of orange marmalade over the baked cookies.
Clotilde seems to love cornmeal as much as we do. Pam made her savory recipe for Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake (Gateau Renverse Brocoli et Polenta) for supper last week. It was easy, beautiful, and a big hit.
Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake
Serves 4 as a main dish, but if you’re lucky, you’ll have a little left over for a delicious breakfast next day.
One medium head of broccoli
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose
flour, or a combination of both
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
(or pine nuts, pecans, or
Wash broccoli, cut into florets, and steam till not quite soft (it will continue to cook in the oven). Remove from steamer and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 360° F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, and oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, and baking powder. Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry until just combined. The batter will be thick. Don’t overmix—it’s fine if it’s a bit lumpy.
Arrange the broccoli in the bottom of the prepared pan. Season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the raisins and walnuts. Pour the batter over the broccoli and smooth out the top with a spatula.
Bake 30-40 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove and let it rest for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it. Cover the pan with a serving plate and flip quickly so the cake lands broccoli side up.
Cut carefully into wedges so as not to crush the broccoli. Serve warm. Sour cream and salsa are nice accompaniments, or you may want to jazz it up a bit with your own additions. Add a salad and you have a wonderful light meal.
Finally, breakfast—the Improvisational Cooks’ favorite meal. We found a delicious recipe for cornmeal scones with cherries, courtesy of pastry chef Nick Malgieri. Nick is also a fan of cornmeal and loves the flavor of cherries with the sweetness of cornmeal. These scones are divine—creamy and light with the perfect balance of flavors.
Lemon Cornmeal Scones with Cherries
(makes 20 scones)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup dried sour cherries, about 5
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut butter into 12 pieces and run evenly into the dry ingredients, until mixture has the appearance of fine cornmeal. Add cherries.
Whisk egg, milk, zest, and vanilla together and stir into flour mixture with a fork to form a smooth dough.
Divide dough into 3 pieces and form each piece into a 5-inch disc. Using a sharp knife, divide each disk into four wedges. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between scones.
Bake for 10-15 minutes till firm but not dry. Watch closely to be sure they do not color too deeply.
To serve, slather with butter, sip your morning tea, and savor your little slice of cornmeal heaven.
Note: Nick’s website is filled with great baking recipes, from quick breads and cakes to tarts and trifles: www.nickmalgieri.com.