Lemon Poppyseed Polenta Cookies

As I enter this post, it is Saturday, November 28th  2020, Small Business Saturday. It took a village to create the cookie recipe below. I am forever grateful for the work of other small businesses: Farmer Mai Nguyen for her beautiful Chiddam Blanc de Mars wheat, Masienda for the stunning heirloom Oaxacan corn, and Baker/Author/Dreamer Sarah Owens for her intuitive palate and for tying us all together in one delicious package. We are tiny but mighty and collectively working for a more just, delicious, and sustainable food system. Thank you all for your continued support of small food businesses.

For more on these collaborators:
Farmer Mai Nguyen: @farmermainguyen http://www.farmermai.com
Masienda: @masienda http://www.masienda.com
Sarah Owens: @sarah_c_owens http://www.patreon.com/sarahowens

Photos, text and recipe by Sarah Owens

Pastries made with polenta or cornmeal have a delightfully playful crunch and these cookies are a wonderful combination of textures and flavors. The crystalline nature of this landrace polenta combined with poppyseeds are both tempered by a soft chewiness that is similar to a snickerdoodle. More poppyseeds are called for here than you will use but will make it much easier to roll and coat the cookies before baking.

A bright citrus identity is present in these cookies and lemon oil adds a concentrated, almost floral complexity. Boyajian Baking Essentials lemon oil is an excellent quality source but if you do not have any on hand, simply increase the lemon zest to your liking or add a ½ teaspoon crushed dried lavender, 1 ½ teaspoons minced rosemary or stripped thyme leaves. Turmeric adds a base note of earthiness and gorgeous interior color without overwhelming the delicate sweetness of the corn. These can be made, chilled, and baked within a few hours or you can store in the refrigerator or freezer and bake them on demand. If so, the dry ingredients will absorb additional moisture that will change the profile of the cookie from being thin and chewy to becoming a bit more lofty without the same spread. Either way, they will appear humble in appearance but will surprise you with sophistication!

Recipe: Lemon Poppyseed Polenta Cookies
Makes 15 cookies

120 g whole wheat ‘Chiddam Blanc de Mars’ flour
70 g ‘Bolita Amarillo’ Oaxacan polenta
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Zest of 1 large lemon
¼ teaspoon lemon oil
75 g raw turbinado sugar
75 g granulated cane sugar
113 g unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup blue poppyseeds

  1. Prepare the dry ingredients.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and turmeric until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Make the cookie dough.
    Place the turbinado and cane sugars in a large bowl and add the lemon zest and lemon oil. Using the back of a spoon, smoosh the zest into the sugars, releasing the aromatic oils and distributing throughout. Add the softened butter and beat with a handheld mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until thick, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until no lumps remain.
  3. Portion the cookie dough.
    Scoop the dough into 30 to 35 g portions and roll in between your palms to create balls. Place them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, refrigerate until firm and then transfer to a plastic bag and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350°F and position a rack in the middle.
  5. Bake the cookies.
    Remove the cookies from the refrigerator. Line two 12 x 16-inch sheet pans with parchment paper and place the poppyseeds in a small and deep bowl. Press each cookie firmly into the poppyseeds, rolling to coat and then transfer to the baking sheets with 2 ½-3 inches between each ball. Place one of the sheet pans back in the refrigerator and transfer the other to the oven. Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes, rotating in between. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before using a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
  6. Store.
    Place the cooled cookie in a lidded container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. 
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