In which being corny and plain is a good thing.
These simple and soft cornmeal shortbread cookies are a cinch to whip up, and taste sweet and satisfying. Sugary, but not overly so, these chewy little butter buttons make a perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or anytime treat.
This recipe takes inspiration from Nancy Baggett’s International Cookie Cookbook, a fantastic and now sadly out-of-print cookie tome from the late 1980s. I have swapped regular yellow cornmeal in for her recommended white because it is easier to source, and because I like the homey yellow color. I also added a pinch of salt to make things a little more interesting.
As with all shortbread cookies, there is no leavening from baking soda or baking powder. They do not spread when baked. The flat shape comes from rolling small scoops of cookie dough into rounds, then pressing them slightly with the flat bottom of a glass. Bonus points for rolling the balls of dough in sugar first as an extra treat.
You may also enjoy: Pecan Sugar Shortbread Cookies and The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
A couple of notes on the recipe for Soft Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies
- These bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. They will still be light on top, but should be light golden brown on the bottom.
- The dough should be crumbly, but stick together when pressed. Cornmeal can be drying in a recipe, so if it is still crumbling and not holding together when you try to scoop the balls of cookie dough, add a bit of milk, let’s say one tablespoon, then stir and try again.
- Though these cookies will not spread, it is still a good idea — as with all cookies — not to crowd the cookie sheet. It is important that ample air circulates around each cookie to let it bake properly. I recommend two cookie sheets for this recipe, which yields around 30 cookies. (Depending on how much cookie dough you eat, of course.)
Soft Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cornmeal, white or yellow
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line with parchment or lightly grease two cookie sheets or half-sheet pans and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg yolks, salt, and vanilla. Beat until combined and fluffy. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well.
- Add the flour and cornmeal and mix gently until everything is fully combined. Let the dough stand for about 5 minutes; the cornmeal will absorb some of the moisture from the butter and egg. Meanwhile, fill a shallow bowl with a layer of sugar.
- After 5 minutes, check the consistency of the dough. The dough should be soft but firm enough to hold together and shape with your hands. If it is spreading, add a little more flour (up to 1/4 cup, but probably not even that much) and combine.
- Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, roll pieces of cookie dough into 1" balls. Roll them in sugar, and place them on a lined cookie sheet, leaving about 2" of space between each
- Using the flat bottom of a clean glass or the palm of your hand, lightly press the cookies to form thick disks. TIP: I prefer using a glass because I find it makes a more even, flat shape.
- Bake on the center rack for about 15 minutes, rotating half way. The cookies should be pale gold and lightly brown on the bottom. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes to set before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. These will keep in an airtight container for a week or a little longer, and freeze well.