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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mexican Orange-Cornmeal Sandies

I had a few egg yolks to use up, left over from last month's ABC angel food cake challenge, and with the magic of the interwebs, it wasn't hard to find a suitable recipe.  Most of the posts for this cookie called for chopped walnuts.  One called for ground walnuts (and I wonder how that might turn out -- probably adds a little more texture), but I opted for the chopped pecans since, pecans being a product of New Mexico, it stayed with the theme better .  (I have no idea what supposedly makes these "Mexican".)

Many cookie recipes these days call for unsalted butter.  I find that using unsalted butter with salt added separately results in the salt being more noticeable in the final product, like tiny bursts on the tongue.  Sometimes this is a desired effect, such as with these digestive biscuits.  But generally, I prefer the more homogeneous taste that salted butter gives.  If the recipe calls for unsalted butter, I simply eliminate a proportionate amount of added salt to compensate, such as I did here.  (There's about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per stick.)  These cookies spread quite a bit, so choose your cutter appropriately.  A 2" cutter spread to 2.5", and a 2.25" cutter spread to 3".

Here's what I used:

2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup (about 1 oz.) toasted, finely chopped pecans
4-6 ounces (up to 1 cup) semisweet bittersweet chocolate (see Note)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add orange zest and orange extract and beat until thoroughly combined.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in pecans. Divide dough in half, shape into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut out dough and place cookies 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.  Repeat with remaining dough, gathering up scraps, re-rolling and cutting until all dough is used. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt chocolate. Partially dip cooled cookies into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip back into saucepan. Of course, you can decide how chocolaty you want these to be and dip deeply or just trim the edge.  Allow chocolate to set, about 1 hour.  (Chill if necessary.)

Note:  Chocolate chips are not recommended for this.  They are intended to hold their shape when melted, and therefore do not become as liquid as baking chocolate.  You can use them, but expect a thicker chocolate coating that you will have to spread like frosting, which might look a little rough.

Conclusion:  These are very sweet, and intensely orange, but a nice combination of flavors.  The cornmeal gives them that "sandy" texture.  The nuts are not noticeable.  They taste like Christmas, especially I think if they had more nuts and less chocolate.  But I also wonder how they would taste with a little cayenne!  <Grins evilly>

Recipe:  The original recipe seems to be from Family Circle magazine's Holiday Cookie Cookbook insert, December 1986, but the earliest on-line version can be found at India Divine or, with the pecans, at the Star Tribune.

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