Cornmeal Lime Cookies
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.
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:
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.
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