Friday, April 27, 2012

Brown Sugar Semolina Cookies with Sea Salt

I love baking with finely ground semolina. It has a very delicate taste and adds an interesting sandy texture that is more subtle and lighter than cornmeal. Made from fine durum wheat, it's a common ingredient in Middle Eastern, Indian and North African desserts and primarily used for making pasta in Italy and the United States.

These cookies are from Mark Bittman. I've never tried any of his recipes before so I thought I'd begin with this one since semolina is the star along with brown sugar and salt. Crispy, crunchy, crumbly, sweet and salty, these cookies make the most of the combination of all these ingredients. The brown sugar lends a hint of butterscotch flavor, the edges caramelize nicely and the salt brings that nice touch of bling at the end of your bite.

As it turns out, the flavors in Bittman's recipe are great but his cookies are a tad too rich with butter for me and fairly greasy. There's 8 oz of butter to 1 1/2 cups of dry ingredients, which is a pretty high ratio of fat. So I cut back the 8 oz to 6 oz and baked them again. I also slightly changed the ratio of semolina to flour to smooth out just a tinge of grittiness and added some vanilla, which I think really enhances the luscious flavor. I've presented Bittman's recipe here with my revisions in brackets. If you're game to try a new and simple but different textured cookie, pick up some semolina and give these little gems a go.

Bench notes:
- I buy semolina in bulk, which is very inexpensive. Check your local grocer or bulk item market. Bob's Red Mill carries a high quality and more expensive product online as does King Arthur, although it appears they have a coarser grind.
- The sea salt sprinkle is a must!!
- The dough is very soft and definitely needs a good chilling before slicing.
- The cookies spread out and flatten so be sure to leave about 1 1/2” between them, baking 12 to a standard baking sheet.
- The cookies are soft coming out of the oven but firm up and crisp as they cool.
- Bear with me as there appears to be frequent and ongoing changes to the new text editor from Google. Today it's not accepting a recipe ingredient list format without double spacing. And I just got an email from them telling me my blog will be eliminated in May because I haven't logged in since 2007. GAH.

Brown Sugar Semolina Cookies with Sea Salt
adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

8 oz (16 T) butter @ room temperature [I used 6 oz {12 T}]

1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed

1 egg yolk

1 C semolina [I used 3/4 C + 2 T]

1/2 C flour [I used 1/2 C + 2 T]

1/4 t salt

[I added 1 t vanilla extract]

Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Cream the butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add the egg yolk and mix thoroughly. Add the vanilla if using and combine. Whisk together the semolina, flour and the 1/4 t salt. Add to the creamed mixture and beat just until the dough starts to hold together. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated and thoroughly combined.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment and roll it into a log. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or until the dough is well chilled and firm enough to cut into slices and still hold their shape.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Cut into 1/4" slices and place them on the baking sheets about 1 1/2" apart. Lightly sprinkle the cookies with a tiny pinch of sea salt.

Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until browned with the edges taking on more color, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back about half-way through. Let the cookies cool on the pan to firm up before removing them.


Victoria said...

These look beautiful and sandy. My favorite kind of cookie. I made your last brown sugar cookies, and they are WONDERFUL. They are now my go-to cookies. So I guess that means I will be trying these.

pastry studio said...

Thank you, Victoria. I think those are my favorite cookies, too!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, meta - These sound to die for! I'll be asking the pastry chef in my family to try and share these. Plus, your recipes always sound like poetry to me. J O'B

saturday mike said...

GAH, indeed!!
I hope you get all this sorted out... if your blog disappeared, I don't know where I'd go for inspiration and delicious dessert ideas!!

Barbara said...

I've made cakes with semolina, but never thought to try it in cookies. The grittiness still bothers me a little in a cake, but would think the crispness of this cookie would cover that.
Love the blueberry turnovers...

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, thank you for your kind words! The Google forum on this issue is bursting with crazy comments from lots of people who are exasperated. I DO hope they figure things out and leave our blogs alone!

Barbara, there does need to be a good ratio of semolina to flour to avoid too much texture, especially in cakes. But when it's done well, it's terrific.


Diana @ Mood Your Food said...

Brown sugar and sea salt, what a perfect combination.

Anonymous said...

The flavor of these cookies is terrific! Unfortunately I've found I'm allergic to eggs so I tried making these with flax seed meal/water instead of the egg yolk. They didn't spread at all and are rather tough. The flavor is so good that I will try them again, being more careful about over mixing and i will try reducing the amount of flax. Any idea what would happen if I just left the yolk out and didn't try to replace it with anything?
Thanks for the recipe!

pastry studio said...

Hellooo, Anonymous! Hmmmm, about your idea of leaving out the egg yolk or substitute altogether.....

I'm thinking it might be OK. The egg in this recipe likely provides the leavening since there is a higher ratio of butter. The cookies probably won't be quite as rich and the texture might be crisper but I think they'd still taste good. Maybe try half the recipe to test? Please let me know if you decide to try it!