Lemon Polenta Shortbread Cookies

My Dad and Aunt Ann’s birthdays are coming up this week and, as always, I’m making a dish for my aunt. The tradition started a few years ago when my mother and I came up with the ingenious idea to make a really gruesome cake for her birthday, since it’s during the wondrous month of Halloween and our family is just the type to be into that sort of thing 😉 Not to say that we’re gruesome, but…our sense of humor certainly can be! Every Easter, we have a lamb cake or two and, by lamb cake, I mean a chocolate or yellow cake in the shape of a lamb. So, our idea was to make a chocolate lamb cake…corpse. I deemed it The Silence of the Lambs Cake and, I must say…it was the most amazing cake I’ve ever made, decoration-wise.

Note the spine and oozing bone marrow (top of neck and bottom of head) constructed of a broken Pirouette cookie covered in icing…also, the chocolate frosting spiders surrounding the plate 🙂 I promise, I’m not a complete and total freak…Seriously.

The following year, I made an evil, murderous Santa cake, deemed Silent Night, Deadly Night, after a really, really terrible horror movie that I’ve actually never seen, but knew my aunt would surely get the joke.

That would be a bloody razor blade in his hand! A real blade…fake blood. No worries, though, nobody tried to eat that part.

So, this year, I’m, again, making a dessert! I originally had a plan for a cake just about as gruesome (and awesome) as the previous two, but decided to go another route. Instead, I’ll be making an amazing chocolate, caramel salted tart and saving the gross idea for next year’s birthday, which will give me enough time to pull it off better 🙂

While I was searching for the perfect tart recipe in Dolce Italianio: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, I found one for a polenta tart crust. Most people wouldn’t really consider polenta as a dessert ingredient at all, let alone the main component of pie crust, so I thought it was really interesting and had to check it out. I actually ate polenta for the first time a few weeks ago and was surprised to find that it didn’t actually taste much like cornmeal, but was much more bland, so I knew it wasn’t actually going to be that weird. The full recipe also actually looked more like a type of shortbread, which is also a common tart crust, so I thought I could probably turn it into cookies!

They are REALLY good. I did overbake most of the cookies, so they ended up crispy rather than soft and chewy, but the cooking time just needs to be reduced. No matter what, they’re still delicious. The lemon zest is really refreshing too. I think next time I make them, I’m going to reduce the cooking time, but also make up a batch of ganache to sandwich some of the cookies together…maybe even add some orange zest.


Lemon Polenta Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup instant or fine polenta
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand; no large lumps of butter should be visible.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, olive oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse just until a ball of dough forms. Pat it into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill the dough until firm enough to roll, about an hour.

When the dough’s ready, lightly flour your work surface and a rolling pin; roll the dough out into a circle about a quarter of an inch thick. Truly, you can make the cookies as thick or thin as you like, you’ll just have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Cut the dough with a cookie cutter and place onto a cookie sheet (it doesn’t have to be greased; they’ll release easily because of the butter). Bake for about ten minutes. The cookies shouldn’t brown whatsoever. I cooked mine for about 15 minutes; half of them browned and all of them were crisp rather than soft, as stated above. While that’s perfectly fine, I think they’re much better soft, in which case the cooking time should be under 15 minutes. Once I’ve made them again, I can update the recipe with something more certain.

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