Friday, August 20, 2010

Mediterranean Semolina Cookies

I was really at a loss when deciding what to call these unique treats...they're based on zaletti, an Italian cornmeal cookie (see David Lebovitz's recipe here, which I used as a starting point), but I replaced and changed the proportions of the flours and sugars, and created a theme with the dried fruits, so they certainly aren't zaletti any more.

Despite appearances, they also aren't what you would typically think of as "cookies," nor do they fit the categories of "biscuit" or "crisp" or any other cookie-ish designation that I can think they're just cookies in this post. What that means here, however, is that they are both a teeny bit chewy from being baked, and a little crunchy from the semolina flour. They aren't too sweet, but have the flavor interest added by the variety of dried fruits and the crisped brown sugar on the outer rim.

The Mediterranean theme comes from the combination of dried fruits I found at a little shop in the Old City of Jerusalem - dried figs, kiwi, coconut, mango, and pineapple. You certainly could create any fruit combination of your choice, so see what is available to you and go for it! I loved the colorful results of this particular mix, but I could see a really beautiful Christmas cookie coming out of dried cherries, cranberries, maybe candied green cherries?

A lot of what I made while in Israel was inspired by the contents of my cupboards - as an apartment that changed student hands frequently, still-fresh ingredients were left behind by previous tenants, and I resolved to use as much of them as possible. It would have been a pity to waste perfectly good (free) food! Such was the case with semolina, which I had never bought before, but the full bag of it convinced me that it was the perfect substitute for polenta recipes that I found. If you have polenta or cornmeal instead, feel free to sub it back in. As you can see in the original recipe, regular or coarse ground cornmeal works just fine.

Mediterranean Semolina Cookies

3/4 C (90 g) dried fruit
2 T (20 g) flour

5 1/2 oz (155 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C (110 g) brown sugar
1 1/2 T honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C (210 g) semolina flour (or polenta/cornmeal)
1 C (140 g) flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

extra brown sugar or raw sugar for rolling the logs of dough

1. Toss the dried fruit and the 2 T (20 g) of flour together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter, sugar, and honey until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, beating until incorporated.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the semolina flour, 1 C flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the beaten butter mixture until incorporated, then stir in the dried fruit.

5. Form the dough into a rectangle 4- by 7-inches (10 by 18 cm), wrap in plastic, and chill the dough for about an hour, or until it’s firm enough to handle.

6. Spread brown or raw sugar liberally over a surface on which to roll the dough into logs. Divide the dough in two, lengthwise, and roll each piece of dough on the brown sugar into a smooth cylinder 7-inches (18 cm) long. Wrap the cylinders and freeze until ready to bake.

(To bake them right away, pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a small unshelled walnut, and roll into balls. Place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet and press them down gently with your hands to flatten them partially.)

7. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 F (170 C).

8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

9. Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch (.75 cm) slices and place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheets. The dough is easier to slice when frozen, but if it's too firm or crumbles when you slice it, let it defrost for a few minutes, or reform the individual slices by hand.

10. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until the cookies are very light brown on top. Remove the oven and let cool completely.

Serve the cookies by themselves, alongside a fruit compote, or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or sorbet.

Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to four days. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for one or two months.

Because these have more fiber, less sugar, and fruit in them, they almost felt like a healthy snack to me. That's justification for making them and eating them whenever you feel hungry, right? Right?

Another crunchy semolina recipe to follow!

No comments:

Post a Comment