Very well then, I repeat myself.
I just love the combination of rosemary and lemon so much that I never get sick of it. I’ve done it in shortbread, which is sublime; I’ve done it in flavored salt, which is handy; and now I’ve done it in these semolina cookies, which are humble and unassuming. They’re all different and they’re all good, so I don’t see a particular need to make apologies for a little bit of a recurring theme.
I bought the semolina some weeks back with the intention of using it in bread, since I’ve been doing more bread baking. Late last week, though, I had an urge to come up with a sweet application for semolina, and I specifically wanted a not-too-sweet, toothy cookie to make a change from the very sweet and decadent cookies I took to the office the past two Mondays. Surprisingly enough, there’s a dearth of semolina-based cookies in my ridiculous cookbook collection, and nothing I found online quite fit the bill, so I decided to adapt a recipe for a polenta-based cookie from Babbo instead.
Unlike my shortbread recipe, which has neon-bright lemon and rosemary flavor, these have just a charming hint, embedded in a tender cookie with just a bit of gritty edge. They’re perfect with an afternoon cup of tea, or if you want to be really Italian about it, with a glass of wine.
Semolina Cookies with Lemon and Rosemary
(Adapted from Polenta Shortbread in Mario Batali’s The Babbo Cookbook)
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
Zest of one lemon
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, minced (around 2 teaspoons)
Additional granulated sugar for rolling
Combine the flour, semolina, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Run the mixer briefly to stir the dry ingredients together.
Sir the egg and yolk, lemon zest and rosemary into the butter. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and run the mixer until a crumbly dough forms. Spoon the dough into a zip-top bag and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 325F and line multiple baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour a good amount of sugar into a shallow dish.
Scoop out tablespoons of the dough and roll into balls the size of unshelled hazelnuts. (You may have to squish and pinch a bit to get the dough to hold together.) Roll the balls of dough in the sugar until well-coated, place on the lined sheets, and use the bottom of a glass to press into cookies 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle the tops with additional sugar.
Bake the cookies until firm and turning golden around the edges, approximately 12-15 minutes. Cool on the sheets briefly, then move to a rack to finish cooling. Store in airtight containers to maintain crispness.
You could leave out either the lemon or the rosemary or both if they’re not to your liking. Lime or orange zest, or a combination of the two, would be quite nice. Crushed anise seeds would also be good.
If you don’t have semolina on hand, you could substitute quick-cooking polenta, as in the original recipe, or finely ground cornmeal.