For the last week or so, I have been a little obsessed with the idea of making a cornmeal-based cookie. I love the rustic texture and deep flavor of cornmeal, and I figured it would really shine in cookie form.
Doing an internet search for cornmeal cookies yielded some interesting results — it appears that the Italians came up with this idea long before I did! Their cornmeal cookies are called zaletti, and they are made with polenta, which is usually sold in a coarser grind than American-style cornmeal.
In this recipe I went with a medium grind cornmeal made by Bob’s Red Mill, which produced cookies with noticeable, chewy flecks of corn. You could certainly use more finely-ground cornmeal if you were looking for a more refined texture, but I have to admit I like how these turned out. A little extra chew never hurt anybody.
Just like my banana bread, these cookies were noticeably improved the next day. I’m thinking that, with gluten-free baking, this may often be the case. A 24-hour stint in an air-tight container allowed the moisture from the cookies to penetrate the cornmeal flecks, transforming them from gritty to chewy.
While there are quite a few recipes for cornmeal cookies on the internet, I did not find a single one that was gluten-free. No matter. What I needed was a recipe — any recipe — that gave weight measurements. This way, I could convert the flour to a gluten-free mixture with no fear of altering the dry-to-liquid proportions. I turned to one of my most trusted sources for baking, the inimitable David Liebovitz. A former desciple of Alice Waters, this Chez Panisse-trained, countless-award-winning pastry chef now lives in Paris, maintaining his beautiful blog and writing gorgeous recipe books.
I forged ahead with David’s recipe in hand, knowing I could use it as a reliable starting point. As per Shauna Ahern’s recommendation, I substituted a 70%/30% blend of flour and starch for the wheat flour, using sorghum and tapioca. I also added my own touch to these cookies, zesting an entire lemon into the batter. They have a pleasantly mellow lemony aroma and taste, the perfect treat to pair with an afternoon cup of lemon-spiked Earl Grey.
The first time out, I made these cookies from walnut-sized lumps of dough, resulting in two dozen cookies about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. They were just fine this way, but rolling out more than twice as many smaller dough balls makes for much daintier, cuter treats. They’re also more fun to eat in one or two bites, and less likely to crumble everywhere — the lack of gluten makes for a less cohesive, more delicate cookie. If you’re bringing them somewhere, transport with care to avoid the unfortunate unveiling of a box of sandy cookie crumbs!
Gluten-Free Lemon Cornmeal Cookies
makes about 6 dozen 1 1/2″ cookies
150 g. sorghum flour
140 g. cornmeal
60 g. tapioca starch
11/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
155 grams (5.5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
120 grams organic cane sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
zest of one lemon, microplaned
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the sorghum flour, cornmeal, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and lemon zest to the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture, whisking until mixed evenly and no lumps of butter remain.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are completely incorporated into the dough.
4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat out the dough to a one-inch thickness, then fold the plastic wrap over it to cover. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or up to overnight.
5. Preheat the oven to 325F (170C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Break off 1 1/2-teaspoon-sized pieces of the dough (about the size of a large marble) and roll into balls. Space the balls of dough an inch apart on the cookie sheets — you will have to bake these in two batches. Press the dough balls down gently to about 1/3″ thickness.
7. Bake cookies for 8 minutes.
8. Remove from oven, then let cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to four days.