Saturday, November 26, 2011

Corn Cookies


I like to think that my mental state is influenced by factors deeper than the weather. If, say, I am depressed, it's because the human condition is depressing, right? Not because of the cloud cover or ambient temperature. But that doesn't seem to be the case. As much as I like to think that I'm some rarified being walking around in a human suit, in truth I'm a pretty simple animal, and my inner life is affected by my outer surroundings. Give me a warm spring evening, with balmy air and ever-later sunset, and I'm suffused with a feeling of hope, that you know, things are really gonna be alright after all! And give me a spate of gray, rainy days, like we've been having lately? Sigh.....

So yeah, things have been feeling a little bleak lately. Rain has been pelting down with a near-biblical vengeance, so much so that salmon are actually crossing the street. It's hard not to take it a bit personally. I need a little sunshine to restore my faith in the rightness of the world. And, since the outside world isn't helping me out, I baked up a little sunshine of my own.

These corn cookies are just about as sunny as can be (in addition to having the ever-important fat and sugar required for happiness). The recipe comes from Christina Tosi, at Momofuku Milk Bar. Tosi packs a ridiculous amount of corn flavor into these cookies, thanks to corn flour and the freeze-dried kernels themselves. She also has a great technique where she whips the bejesus out of butter and sugar, going beyond creaming to a whole new level of texture. The resulting cookies are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and as much as I tend to favor wee bite-sized cookies, making them large maximizes this contrast of textures in a delicious way. I suppose that relying on baked goods for mental health may be a somewhat dangerous policy. But on these gray winter days, it really does make the world a little sweeter.

Corn Cookies

adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar, as printed in Lucky Peach
yields ~18 cookies

Dehydrated corn can be found in the natural-food or snack section of larger supermarkets. If you can't find it, and decide that rather than try another store you'll just get the bag of mixed dehydrated vegetables and pick out the corn kernels, there's a strong likelihood that your finished cookies will end up tasting a bit like dehydrated peppers and tomatoes, and you'll have to scrap the batch and start again. I'm just sayin'.

2 sticks (225 grams) butter, warmed to room temperature (Tosi favors high-fat butter like Plugra)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups (225 grams) flour
1/4 cup (45 grams) corn flour (this is ground to a flour-like consistency, unlike the coarser cornmeal, and can be found in gluten-free sections of your supermarket -- in a pinch, you could probably try to blitz cornmeal in a blender and substitute that)
2/3 cup (65 grams) freeze-dried corn powder (freeze-dried corn is available at Whole Foods or other natural food stores, and easily grinds to a powder in your blender)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Place the butter and sugar in a mixer (ideally fitted with a paddle attachment), and cream on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a spatula, then begin blending on a medium-low speed and add the egg. Increase speed back to medium-high, and blend for a full 8 minutes. During this time, the sugar dissolves and the whole mixture becomes pale and nearly doubles in volume.

While the mixture is blending, sift together the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

After the uber-blend has finished, reduce the heat to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until it just comes together (as ever, tis better to under-mix than to over-mix).  Line a sheet pan with parchment, and scoop out 1/4 cup-sized cookies. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a plastic bag,a nd refrigerate for at least an hour (or up to a week). If you don't have the fridge space for a sheet pan, you can use plates, and then transfer to a sheet tray before baking. This chilling step is critical for keeping the butter-heavy cookies from greasing all over the place, so don't skip it.

When your doughballs have chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Make sure the cookeis are at least 3 inches apart on their parchment-lined sheets (I tend to pack them onto one tray for chilling in my space-challenged fridge, then spread them out on multiple sheets for baking). Bake ~18 minutes, until very faintly browned on the edges, but still bright yellow in the center.

Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then transfer to a plate for serving or airtight container for storage. Corn cookies keep ~5 days, or in the freezer for a month.


  1. I'm adding these to my annual cookie list. Human suits and salmon crossings: I just love reading over here. I save posts sometimes, like this one, when I see it's new and I want to savor it a few days before reading... teasing myself with just that crackly cookie pic up on top. You never disappoint!

  2. @Cakewalk: So glad to bring joy from my kitchen to yours. And glad that our deluge is amusing -- it's sometimes hard to maintain a sense of humor when your socks are squelching, but it's always good from afar.

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe with us! I wish you A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!