Lugging a backpack full of textbooks in middle school, while walking to the bus stop after class, and suffering from a serious case of the munchies.
That’s truly the last time I think I’ve bought corn nuts.
Until now, that is.
Leave it to Pastry Chef Mindy Segal to get me to venture into a nearby 7-Eleven for the sole purpose of buying corn nuts.
But her recipe for “Corn Nut Cornmeal Shortbread” captivated me so much, I just had to do it.
The recipe is from her cookbook, “Cookie Love” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.
A James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, Segal is the proprietor of HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago. The book was written in conjunction with Kate Leahy, a San Francisco food writer and recipe developer.
Segal is known for putting fun, inventive, modern twists on classics. Her cookie recipes exemplify that. Her peanut butter cookies have crunchy, crackly pieces of real peanut brittle embedded in them. Her lemon tea cakes are made with goat butter that has the slightest tang. Her rugelach is rolled up around raspberry rose jam. Basically, you’ll want to make all 60-plus recipes.
“Corn Nut Cornmeal Shortbread” is one of the simplest cookie recipes in the book. It only has six ingredients, too.
The Corn Nuts get pulverized in a food processor, then incorporated in a mixing bowl with plenty of cold butter, sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt. The minute the mixer starts doing its thing, you start to smell the salty, toasty fragrance of the corn nuts. It makes your kitchen smell like you’re at the movies, what with its popcorn-y aroma.
You can cut out the cookies into strips, squares or any shape you prefer. With the Fourth of July coming up, I opted to make mine into stars.
When they emerged from the oven, they were shining stars alright. The golden brown cookies are crunchy and crumbly with an intense corn flavor. They are a little sweet, a little salty.
They are perfect for adorning a bowl of your favorite ice cream or eating on their own with a cup of tea or an ice-cold glass of milk.
I even like the cookies with a corn nut chaser — just a few of those crackling hard kernels to enjoy on the side.
Because if you’re like me, making these cookies will only remind you just how much you once did love corn nuts. And that’s nothing to be ashamed about.
Corn Nut Cornmeal Shortbread
(Makes 28 cookies)
1 cup (8 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Corn Nuts or giant Incan corn kernels
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl of a stand mixer and refrigerate until butter is firm, approximately 30 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, and salt.
Put the Corn Nuts in a food processor. Add 3/4 cup of the flour mixture and blend until a coarse meal forms and no large pieces of Corn Nut remain. Pulse in the remaining flour mixture.
Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the corn kernel mixture to the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until the dough starts to resemble a coarse meal, approximately 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough just starts to clump around the paddle or to the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.
Place the dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour. Roll the dough back and forth into a cylinder. Using your fingers, pat the dough into a rectangle. Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Put the dough on top.
Using a rolling pin, begin rolling out the dough. If any cracks form in the dough, stop to push them together. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, dust the top lightly with flour, cover with an additional piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Roll the dough into a 10 by 12- or 14-inch rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. If the surface is uneven, roll a pastry roller across the surface to even it out.
Ease the dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, at least 20 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a couple of half sheet pans with parchment paper.
Let the dough sit at room temperature for up to 10 minutes. Invert the dough onto a work surface and peel off the top layer of parchment paper. Run a dough docker across the surface of the dough or pierce numerous times with a fork.
Using a 1 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch (or comparable) cookie cutter, cut out the shortbread. If you don’t have a comparable cookie cutter, you can cut out the rectangles with a knife. Reroll the dough trimmings, chill, and cut out more cookies.
Evenly space 12 to 16 shortbreads on the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven, lower the temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until the cookies feel firm to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let the cookies cool entirely on the sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
From “Cookie Love” by Mindy Segal
More Corn-Liciousness: Nectarine and Raspberry Tart
And: Cornflake Cookies