Cornmeal Lime Cookies

August 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm 47 comments


Last Thanksgiving, with only a few weeks left in my study abroad program, I packed a bag and flew to Barcelona. Although I visited a dozen countries that semester, for the first time I was traveling by myself.

It seemed daring and spontaneous when I booked the ticket. But as I walked into the rich Spanish sunshine, my nerves kicked in hard. I didn’t speak Spanish. I didn’t have companions. I hadn’t even read a travel guide or looked at a map. Nope, I went in blind and alone, a recipe for disaster.

Continued after the jump…

The next morning I visited La Sagrada Familia, a church designed by the Catalan architect Gaudi. I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t what I saw. Eight towers distinguished La Sagrada Familia in the orange-tan Barcelona skyline. From a distance, they could pass as Gothic style spires, perforated with elaborate cut outs and classic rose windows. But closer up, each tower tapered into an orange bulb, like flower stamens stretching towards the sun. One of the gargoyles was – wait – a frog? What kind of church was this?

That’s when I turned the corner and saw the front of the church. I’d been studying the back that whole time, oblivious to how much more surprising this church could get.


Inside, columns textured like bark split into branches and bloomed into leaves, sheltering the nave like a forest canopy. Meticulous starbursts and carved foliage covered the ceiling, which glowed gold and green where sunlight reflected against the tile mosaic. The staircases spiraled up like a conch heart.

And the windows. The panels illustrated not biblical scenes, but the sheer beauty of intense color, abstract patterns in the otherwise familiar arched frames. Each individual window worked aesthetically, and yet, together they transformed La Sagrada Familia into a jewelry box, its white walls smudged with rainbow light. The geometry, the whimsy, the overwhelming color and movement! I’d never seen a church so organic, so whole, one I could actually feel breathing as I stood in its ribs.

I took stairs up into a spire, which offered a clear view of the city sprawl: a landscape of orange brick and flat black rooftops, dotted with palm trees and bordered by hazy blue mountains. I stood there a long time, looking out at the blend of modern and ancient buildings, breathing in golden Barcelona heat.

Gorgeous stained glass.
Spiral steps

That semester I happened to take a Renaissance and Baroque art class. It was the kind of elective I would have never considered back in Boston. I enrolled because the selection of study abroad courses were limited, not realizing how perfect it would be. All semester I saw famous churches and cathedrals throughout Europe, monuments I’d just studied in class. And while La Sagrada Familia, designed in the late 1880s, wasn’t covered, we did review the Gothic era.

Studying La Sagrada Familia’s sculptures, cross-shaped layout, vaults and saturation of light, I recognized the Gothic influence, and admired Gaudi’s interpretation. Visiting the church uneducated upped the surprise factor and imparted a kind of magic, but knowing some art basics enriched my appreciation.

I visited a handful of Gaudi’s other works in Barcelona, each one spectacular, and brought my fascination back to the states. When I signed up for my Fall 2012 classes, I noticed a cool seminar on Magical Realism in the Arts. Too bad I’m not a VMA major, I thought. That’s when I saw that my Renaissance and Baroque art class was a prerequisite.

Two weeks later, I declared an art minor, the last thing I’d ever predict from a weekend in Spain.


I figure you need to sometimes follow your whims and let the unexpected take you. Take these Cornmeal Lime Cookies – how could I resist a flavor combination like that? I love a sense of surprise in my food, from unusual ingredients to a hidden ribbon of cream cheese. Something playful and unpredictable, because dessert is supposed to be fun.

Maybe you’ve had corn and lime together (my dad’s Blueberry Corn Salad with Lime, anyone?) Maybe it sounds completely impossible. All I know is these cookies are soft and chewy, studded with tart cranberries, and completely addictive. The lime is bright but the cornmeal is the real shocker, adding crunchiness to cake-y cookies. They were good out of the oven and even better the next day. My mom likes them plain, but I prefer a paper-thin coat of icing, sugary sweet and flecked with lime. They’re good enough to make again.

We’ve had that tub of cornmeal in the cabinet forever, simply because we don’t know how to use it up. Mom sprinkles it onto pizza dough and occasionally crusts chicken, but I haven’t been trying. I know some of it will go into another batch of Cornmeal Lime Cookies, but the rest? Consider me open to suggestion.



There’s a good amount of butter here, but believe it or not, I’ve cut back from the original recipe to hinder spreading. I think I hit the jackpot – they’re moist and cake-y tender rather than crisp. If yours are spreading too much, try chilling the dough in the fridge for thirty minutes.

The glaze is admittedly sweet, but I can’t get enough of it. I especially like that it firms up in thirty minutes, so the cookies are stackable and smudge-free. But my mom liked the cookies plain, so I won’t judge.

Finally, some more Barcelona pictures:

Steps Guell Columns Barcelona. La Padrera

Cornmeal Lime Cookies
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes around 3 dozen

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of three limes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of two small limes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Pour the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the lime zest and rub in with your fingers – this’ll marry the sugar with the fragrant citrus oils, leaving the sugar damp and full of lime flavor. Add the butter and beat on medium-high with the paddle attachment, creaming until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl, add the lime zest and fanilla, and beat until just combined.

Next, beat in the eggs and lime juice, mixing only until incorporated, around 30 seconds. The batter might seem to separate here, and that’s okay.

Slowly mix in the flour in three stages, beating only until incorporated. The batter should come together into a dough. Beat in the dried cranberries until just combined.

Scoop out the dough in rounded teaspoons and roll into balls, placing them 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until set and just barely golden on the edges. Let cool completely before icing.

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, lime juice, lime zest, and vanilla extract together. Dip the cookies into the glaze and set on a wire rack. The icing should firm up in around 30 minutes.

Printer-Friendly Version – Cornmeal Lime Cookies

Entry filed under: Cookies, Travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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47 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amy Ogburn  |  August 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    You need to try this: Zucchini Cornbread
    3 eggs, beaten
    1 T. sugar
    1 stick butter, melted
    1 1/4 cup self-rising cornmeal
    1/4 cup self-rising flour
    3/4 cup small-curd cottage cheese
    1 1/2 cup peeled and grated zucchini
    1/4 tsp. salt
    Mix all ingredients, and pour into a greased 6 x 10 inch pan (mine is glass). Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until done. Moist and delicious!

    Congrats on your study abroad ventures, and thanks for the wonderful photos of Barcelona!

  • 2. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  August 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    This cookie recipe is fabulous and so unique! Lovely idea!

  • 3. cht7  |  August 10, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    These cookies look delicious! Beautiful photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • 4. The Blazing Trail  |  August 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Absolutely delicious!

  • 5. Chilli  |  August 11, 2012 at 1:06 am

    SO GLAD you’re blogging again! Beautiful cookies!

  • 6. Sera  |  August 11, 2012 at 5:17 am

    The way you’ve described that church makes me really want to go there! Thank you for writing here again :)

  • 7. Greg  |  August 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Great post, love it!!! I was trying to spend this weekend in Barcelona because a few friends are there for a Pride event engulfing the city (big gay weekend party essentially). Now of course I randomly saw a show on Barcelona last night and am reading this post instead of being there myself, shame on me.. PS, the cookies look amazing too!!

  • 8. Cookie  |  August 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I’m so glad you are posting again!! The recipe looks wonderful and yummy. Your writing is, as always, truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing with those of us that are hungry for your words and your recipes! :)

  • 9. The Girl With The Cupcake Tattoo  |  August 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I also have been to that same cathedral in Spain. I am not the most interested in art or architecture but the week I spent in Spain gave me a new appreciation for them. I enjoyed some of my favorite food experiences while there and hope some day to take my fiancée so he can have the same change of heart. These cookies look delicious! May just have to give these a try!

  • 10. Cousin Sharon  |  August 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I know baking is your thing, but cornmeal pancakes are yummy. The cornmeal replaces some of the flour and lends a little texture to the pancakes.

  • 11. Christina @ Diary of a Teenage Baker  |  August 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Beautiful! Both the pictures and writing :)

  • 12. Ellen @ Indigo Scones  |  August 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Lovely! You’re pictures (and writing!) make me want to travel so badly. Those cookies look amazing! Cornmeal is awesome in pound cake, and waffles!

  • 13. Emily  |  August 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Hey Elissa
    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and I thought I would finally comment to tell you what I think about your blog.

    I just have to tell you that your blog is one of the loveliest I have ever stumbled upon on the Internet.

    The recipes that you select are gorgeous and your writing is fluid and beautiful, not to mention your photography which is fantastic.

    It has been awesome to watch the way your life has evolved, from baking whilst at school in Seattle, to travels in Marrakech, Rome and Los Angeles, to venturing out to find a new apartment to live in.

    I remember the post where you made Blackberry jam almond bars and discussed how you didn’t make it into your ‘dream’ school, and you didn’t know how the rest of your life would turn out.

    Aren’t you glad to see how amazing your life is now? Standing in the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is most likely not something you would have experienced had you been accepted into your ‘dream’ school.

    It seems that your future is going wonderfully well, and I wish you all the best for the rest of it!

    Good luck!!!

    PS: This has been written from a small city in Australia. Your writing has managed to touch somebody who lives on the other side of the world! Amazing!

    • 14. Elissa  |  August 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you!

  • 15. Hannah M.  |  August 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    these are a lovely use for cornmeal: as is this cake: (I tend to like it better without the glaze, though)

  • 16. Alyssa  |  August 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I adored Barcelona and all things Gaudi, too. He’s so much fun and what a great recipe to pair with your reflections on Barca.

    P.S. Whenever I am walking around Boston, I secretly hope I’ll run into you on the street so I could say hello and meet the you behind these words and photos. :-)

  • 17. helen  |  August 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    these look really delicious. i use cornmeal to make tamale pie with a cornbread topping (instead of the crust it usually calls for).

  • 18. D  |  August 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Brussels was the first trip I did solo in Europe, and it was fairly spontaneous/not really planned either. That’s great that you enjoyed yourself in Barcelona!

  • 19. ekwee  |  August 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Yum! I <3 corn and lime. I made Smitten Kitchen's cornbread croutons (all cornmeal and no flour, as I recall) and drizzled some honey and a pinch of salt on top. They were great!

    Your trip to Barcelona reminds me of my first time in Paris. I traveled alone for an independent study on surrealist art and knew about four phrases in French. I also took a day trip to Girona and Barcelona and was stunned by the Gaudi architecture as well! Good for you for adding the art minor–that's something I might do if I went back :)

  • 20. thefoodbucketlist  |  August 14, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    These cookies looks so moist and delicious! Coconut and lime sound like a great combination. Thanks for sharing, Elissa!

  • 21. sillygirl  |  August 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

    There is a recipe for cornbread from the Greenbrier on Dorie Greenspan’s website that is killer.

  • 22. beyondmundania  |  August 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    A suggestion for cornmeal– The rosemary is definitely a surprise, but it is fantastic with the cake, and leaving the peach skins on colors the syrup a beautiful rose.
    Also, do you know how long these cookies keep, or if they freeze well? Cookies don’t usually last long around here, but we have been giving cookies as Christmas presents for the last two years, and I have to start early to get them all done. These looked like they might be a nice addition to my current recipe stash!

  • 23. highschoolfoodie  |  August 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    These look great! The cornmeal sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • 24. Stephanie {Clockwork Lemon}  |  August 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Those sound amazing!

    I have a degree in Art History and I got a chance to study for a year in England which gave me the chance to gallery hop a bit in Europe.

    It’s the perfect place to study art because you can really experience it.. studying older art in Canada has never felt the same way (I generally only enjoy really contemporary, socially relevant pieces). It’s great to hear that you had a similar feeling, a sense of awe and connection of a piece and a place and it’s history.

  • 25. Stacey  |  August 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    these look delicious. Have you tried the Cornmeal Lime cookies from Flour Bakery? I made them from their cookbook, time consuming but so worth the effort.

  • 26. Tirzah  |  August 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    They’re savory, but hushpuppies are a great way to use cornmeal. Here’s a recipe:
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup minced onion (cilantro, rosemary, and scallions are also good)
    • 2 cups vegetable oil
    You need a pan for deep-frying, though, and should probably make them only for a number of people.

  • 27. theprincesscooks  |  August 24, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Omg! These look awesome and Barcelona is such a beautiful city! This princess loves Gothic buildings. Cinnamon and Nutmeg would probably make these beauties even better!

    – The Teen Princess of Buttermilk Springs

  • 28. Sudhakar  |  August 25, 2012 at 3:12 am

    The biscuits look great. I so want to go to Barcelona, it’s only 1 1/2 hours away.

  • 29. Sudhakar  |  August 25, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Which hotel did you stay at?

  • 30. Anna - Sweet Peas and Green Teanna  |  August 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    It’s so true that often the best things come out of just going where the universe takes you. That’s kinda how I ended up studying law (something I thought I’d hate but turned out to be a real passion). These cookies look delicious! I love anything sweet with cornmeal.

  • 31. cooleyconcepts  |  September 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm


  • 32. Dave Norman  |  September 5, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Looks Delicious!

  • 33. Jennifer Ellen  |  September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    As a Southerner, I find it a little sad that you’re wondering what to do with cornmeal! ;-)

    If it’s good cornmeal (wholegrain, without all of the good stuff removed to make it shelf stable), it’s hard to beat a great cake of Southern cornbread – no sugar! (But if you want the desert version, drizzle good honey over a hot buttered slice. My mom sometimes uses cooked apples.) I love it with beans or lentils, or smothered in pulled pork.

    To up the corn flavor of so-so cornmeal, you can lightly toast the meal before using it.

    Preheat a 9” cast-iron skillet in a 450 oven.

    2 cups of cornmeal (wholegrain)
    Scant ½ cup flour (means -1/2 tbsp or so)
    ½ tsp baking soda
    2 tsp salt
    4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)

    Combine the dry ingredients.

    2 cups buttermilk
    4 eggs, beaten (mom prefers 2; I like 4)

    Combine the buttermilk and eggs well.

    Put a tablespoon or two of butter (or bacon grease!) in the pre-heated skillet.
    Quickly combine the wet and dry ingredients.
    Swirl the butter/grease around to well-coat the skillet and pour the excess into the batter, and quickly stir it in.
    Pour the batter into the skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how dark you want it.

  • 34. Sarah  |  September 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I’m so glad that you’re blogging again! This was the first food blog I ever read, and you combine baking knowledge with beautiful prose better than almost anyone.
    Best of luck baking in your dorm room. I can sympathize with how rough it is. I was lucky enough to get placed in a university-owned apartment this year, and cooking for myself is a dream (finding the time to bake is another matter entirely though!)
    The pictures of Barcelona look beautiful, and your cookies equally so. Someday hopefully I’ll try both.

  • 35. kyleen  |  September 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Your trip to Spain sounds like it was so eye-opening. I’m definitely looking forward to taking a trip by myself when I’m old enough.

  • 36. Samantha  |  September 15, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Use that cornmeal to make arepas! Or even a good savory or sweet Colombian-style empanada. I don’t have a written recipe, but I’m sure the google guardians can hook it up:)

  • 37. Georgie Girl  |  September 16, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Hello, I just thought I’d let you know that I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blogger award. Check it out at:

    best of luck!

  • 38. Adriana Bon Ramos  |  October 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I was born and grew up in Barcelona, where I lived until I was 22. Then I moved to Boston, where I spent 2 years. Now I live in Portland. You have no idea how happy I am to read about your experiences in Barcelona. I miss it! and Boston!( next post) I miss it too!

  • 39. ironamma  |  October 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Lime is delicious for pre winter holiday treats! excellent

  • 40. prettyhappy  |  November 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Love this post. I’ve been toying with lime frosting on my blog as well. Thanks for the new recipe to try :)

  • 41. Asilia  |  January 24, 2013 at 12:09 am

    You are such an inspiration. As a 16 yr old who loves to cook (and who really cannot bake at all) it is amazing to see a food blogger as successful as you are who is so young.

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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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