Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Here's the thing. Chocolate is overrated. It's always held up as the best out of the pair in the chocolate/vanilla dichotomy, and an entire industry of propaganda has sprung up around it. Such as the insatiable cravings all women are supposed to have. But butter as a flavor in its own right hardly ever gets mentioned. And the butter cookie seems to be barely a blip on the craveable radar. Well it isn't right. The butter cookie has long been a favorite of mine because, frankly, what could better than the pure taste of butter? I mean, really.
All of that is to say that these cookies are unapologetically butter rich in taste and texture. And speaking of texture, they use semolina flour which, although itself coarse, makes them incredibly delicate and crumbly, threatening to disintegrate in your hand. And making good on that promise on your tongue. But the real secret here is the salt.
Rather than finishing them with a sprinkling of, say, rock sugar, they get a gentle shower of sea salt just before baking. Anyone who has enjoyed the chocolate- or yogurt-covered-pretzel, kettle corn, or bacon in any kind of dessert knows how natural the pairing of opposites can be. And in this case, a good sea salt really gets the opportunity to show itself off. Sweet, buttery, crumbly, then a hint of salt at the finish.
This recipe comes from Mark Bittman who, of course, can always be trusted. And it's a perfect example of how the combination of a few simple, but well-chosen ingredients can be transcendent. I really think you're really going to like this one.
Brown Sugar Semolina Cookies with Sea Salt
Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on low until well combined. Add the egg yolk, then both of the flours, and then the salt as you continue to beat until the mixture just starts to hold together.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and roll it into a log. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the dough is well chilled and firm enough to be cut into slices.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Have 2 cookie sheets ready, either ungreased or covered with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, the slice the dough into 1/4" slices, and put them on the cookie sheet with a couple of inches room between them. Sprinkle the cookies with a little bit of sea salt. Be relatively conservative about this, since you don't want to over-salt them. Bake right away until they're firm but not browning, or about 15-20 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the sheets for a moment before you remove them to cooling wracks.