Corby's Table
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Confessions of a Cookie Eater

West Tenth Street Brownies
Lemonade Cookies
Paste Di Meliga
Brown Sugar Pecan Macaroons
All-Corn Biscotti

October 4, 2000

Rarely is a review an open plea, and I disapprove of what I'm about to ask. But please, make these recipes and send me leftovers. I'll reimburse you the shipping. I'll cheerfully accept crumbs.

Cookies are my addiction and my survival food. I hunt for them wherever I am, making notes about regional variations and local ways of eating them. They are my chief souvenir. Modesty and embarrassment prevent my going any further with stories of my passion, but I'm sure my Atlantic colleagues would recount several at the drop of a cornmeal-and-butter crumb.
Discuss this column in Post & Riposte.

Previously in Corby's Table:

The Bygone World of the Bialy -- August 31, 2000
Corby Kummer on Mimi Sheraton's The Bialy Eaters, a food critic's account of her seven-year, still-incomplete search for the origin of the distinctive little onion roll that is often mistaken for a bagel.

The Chowder King -- July 26, 2000
Corby Kummer on Jasper White's 50 Chowders, the latest from Boston's master seafood chef.

Simply Summer -- June 22, 2000
Corby Kummer satisfies his fresh-herb lust with a new book by Lisa Cowden, Ladle, Leaf, & Loaf.

Tuscany, Reluctantly -- April 26, 2000
Corby Kummer is tired of Tuscany, but he likes Pino Luongo's new cookbook, Simply Tuscan.

Matzoh Makeover -- March 22, 2000
Corby Kummer on Jayne Cohen's The Gefilte Variations, a new cookbook offering multiple versions of Jewish holiday classics.

Ham and Beans to the Rescue -- February 16, 2000
Weary of the Boston winter, Corby Kummer serves up "one of history's great couplings."

How to Cook (and How It Should Look) -- January 20, 2000
Corby Kummer on James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking, a kitchen primer that should fascinate beginners and old pros alike.

Encyclopedia Gastronomica -- December 22, 1999
Corby Kummer makes his way through The Oxford Companion to Food -- and still finds Room for Dessert.

Italian Soul Food -- October 14, 1999
Corby Kummer serves up selections from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Italian Country Table.

Countercultural Cooking -- September 15, 1999
Corby Kummer on Chez Panisse -- the influential Berkeley, California, restaurant that started as a countercultural collective -- and the new Chez Panisse Café Cookbook.

Charmed by Chile -- August 18, 1999
A new collection of home-style recipes reflects the Chilean way of life.

Hail to the Chef -- July 15, 1999
A tribute to Patrick Clark, a chef who was a model for many young African-Americans and an inspiration to other chefs.

More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound

The moment I opened the envelope containing Nick Malgieri's new Cookies Unlimited, there was of course nothing to do but go through every page. Twice. I carefully chose the cookies I would most like to try, and then I narrowed that extremely wide variety down to cookies that can be easily made by enthusiastic bakers who might lack special equipment or long practice.

Not that Malgieri requires feats from his readers. He is one of the most experienced baking teachers in the country, and routinely gives classes in unfamiliar kitchens, making do with what he finds. (His Web site details his exhausting nationwide teaching and touring schedule.) His introductory notes reflect that experience. He does insist on certain rules -- for example, spooning dry ingredients into individual measuring cups and then leveling off the excess instead of dipping, which compacts the ingredients and can easily result in tough cookies of the literal sort. Yet he doesn't insist on weighing out the flour and sugar, as other writers on baking do, and in general he isn't overly finicky.

For this book he relied mostly on favorite cookie recipes from many friends and also former students, which seems appropriate for something so dear to people. But the provenance of one of the recipes is so mysterious and charming that I can't resist passing it along. West Tenth Street Brownies were a gift from heaven -- they came from an index card Malgieri found on a Greenwich Village sidewalk with a recipe for "The Best Brownie's in the World" [sic]. Who would return such a card to the trash? Nobody I want to know. "They turned out to be sensational," Malgieri writes, "and certainly a contender for the title." Be warned: the brownies are sweet.

"Soft, chewy" Lemonade Cookies, the author writes, "pack the strongest lemon flavor I have ever experienced in a cookie" -- which sounds as tempting as any description I could imagine. These are drop cookies brushed while warm with a thick and strong lemon glaze. I also couldn't resist any recipe provided by a friend of Malgieri's named Amber Sunday.

Second only to my love of lemon is my love of cornmeal, and Malgieri includes two recipes that sound irresistible: Paste Di Meliga, a buttery cornmeal shortbread popular throughout Piedmont, one of my favorite regions of Italy (I always bring back boxes of cookies and trail telltale crumbs all over my office); and All-Corn Biscotti, which I'm eager to try for their pure cornmeal-and-almond flavor, sweetened with both honey and sugar and baked with a full cup of cornstarch in place of any wheat flour. These are gluten-free, and, Malgieri promises, "delicate" and "crunchy." Fascinating.

The last of the recipes I narrowed down with painful difficulty is one I know I could consume raw, underbaked, overbaked, misshapen, any way. Brown Sugar Pecan Macaroons contain practically nothing besides brown sugar, pecans, and egg whites, and I feel sure they will be the "perfect" combination of flavors and textures the author claims they are. Characteristically, he gives credit to two good friends for supplying the recipe, which he doubtless streamlined and made foolproof. Malgieri is a generous friend and a generous, skilled teacher.

And I'm serious about those shipments. Can we revive the ancient art of barter?

    -- Corby Kummer

Excerpts from Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri

West Tenth Street Brownies

The name of this recipe is the result of my finding it in Greenwich Village a few blocks from where I live. As I walked east on Tenth Street, I saw a yellowed index card lying on the sidewalk. When I picked it up I saw written in a spidery hand in blue fountain pen ink a recipe for "The Best Brownie's [sic] in the World." Well, I put it aside in a miscellaneous recipe file, and a few months later tried it. They turned out to be sensational and certainly a contender for the title. If you like very sweet brownies, these will be your favorites.

Makes one 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan, about twenty-four 2-inch brownies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter 2 cups sugar
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces 1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs 1 cup (a 6-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon salt 4 ounces (about 1 cup) coarsely chopped pecan or walnut pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment or foil

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Off the heat add the chocolate. Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. If all the chocolate has not melted, return the pan to low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate melts.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt and vanilla, just until mixed. Whisk in the sugar in a stream, then whisk in the chocolate and butter mixture. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the flour.

4. Set the batter aside until it has cooled to room temperature (test it with your fingertip). Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.

6. Bake the cake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick or a small knife inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool completely on a rack.

7. Wrap and refrigerate the pan so that the cake solidifies -- at least 4 hours; overnight is best. This also makes the cake easier to cut.

8. Transfer the whole cake to a cutting board and slide a long knife or spatula under it to loosen the paper or foil, then pull it away. Use a ruler to mark, then cut the cake into 2-inch squares.

9. For up to several days, store the brownies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover. Freeze for longer storage. If you plan to keep the brownies for any length of time, it is better to wrap them individually in cellophane.

Lemonade Cookies

These soft, chewy cookies pack the strongest lemon flavor I have ever experienced in a cookie -- they are definitely not for anyone who doesn't like really big flavors. This is based on a recipe given to me by Amber Sunday.

Makes about 70 cookies

Lemon Mixture
3/4 cup strained lemon juice 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Cookie Batter
3 cups all-purpose flour 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda 1/3 cup reserved lemon mixture (see above) for finishing cookies
1/4 teaspoon salt sugar for sprinkling
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 3 or 4 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil
1 cup sugar

1. For the lemon mixture, combine the juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When all the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and cool the mixture to room temperature. Stir in the grated zest. This may be prepared 1 day before using, but no longer. The zest will make the mixture bitter if it stays in it too long. Set aside 1/3 cup lemon mixture for finishing the cookies.

2. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees

3. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well to mix.

4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition. Lower the speed and beat in half the flour mixture, then the lemon mixture (don't add the reserved 1/3 cup at this point), and the remaining flour mixture

5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the batter one final mixing with a large rubber spatula

6. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the batter 3 or 4 inches apart on the prepared pans.

7. Bake the cookies for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until they have spread and risen -- they should be lightly golden.

8. Slide the papers off the pans onto racks and immediately brush the cookies with the reserved lemon mixture. Sprinkle the outsides of the cookies with granulated sugar after they have cooled.

9. Detach the cookies from the paper and store them between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Paste Di Meliga
Italian Cornmeal Butter Cookies from Piemonte

I recently had the occasion to spend a long weekend in Asti in the Piedmont area of northern Italy. Of course, the first thing I did was to take a walk and look at all the pastry shops. There was one cookie in all of them: a delicately flavored but coarse-textured piped butter cookie with delicious tastes of cornmeal and vanilla. I came home and experimented with duplicating them. This recipe is the result.

Makes about 20 cookies

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar 2/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil
2 large eggs

1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together on medium speed the butter, sugar, and vanilla until very soft, fluffy, and whitened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.

4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour and cornmeal by hand.

5. Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tube, (Ateco #824), pipe the cookie dough onto the prepared pans in double S curves about 2 1/2 inches long. Leave about 1 1/2 inches around each cookie in all directions. These spread quite a bit.

6. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are firm and very light golden.

7. Slide the papers from the pans onto racks.

8. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Brown Sugar Pecan Macaroons

These treats are as easy to make as they are to consume. The combination of the brown sugar and pecans in this chewy cookie is a perfect one. Thanks to Marilynn and Sheila Brass for this contribution.

Makes about 40 cookies

2 large egg whites 8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecan pieces, lightly toasted and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until they hold a firm peak, about 2 or 3 minutes.

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and with a large rubber spatula, fold in the sugar and the pecans. The egg whites will deflate entirely and the mixture will become sticky and pasty.

4. Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tube (Ateco #806), pipe out 1 1/2-inch macaroons onto the prepared pans. Leave about 2 inches around each cookie.

5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the macaroons are puffed and somewhat firm. Cool on the pans on racks.

6. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

All-Corn Biscotti

These delicate, crunchy biscotti are wheat- and gluten-free. Be careful to let the baked cake cool after the first baking or it will be difficult to slice.

Makes about 70 biscotti

8 ounces (about 2 cups) whole unblanched almonds 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup yellow cornmeal 1/4 cup honey
1 cup cornstarch 2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan, buttered and the bottom lined with parchment or foil
1 egg 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place 1 cup of the almonds and pulse repeatedly until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl with the remaining whole almonds, cornmeal, cornstarch, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir well to mix.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, add the sugar, honey, butter or oil, and vanilla, whisking as you add each one. Stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until a stiff dough forms.

4. Scrape the dough onto the 9 x 13-inch pan and press with palm of your hand until the dough is an even layer completely covering the bottom of the pan, about 1/2-inch thick.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cutting board and cool completely. Reset the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Leave the oven on.

6. Cut into three 3 x 13-inch strips, then slice each strip every 1/2 inch. Arrange the biscotti on the prepared cookie sheets or jelly roll pans and bake again for about 15 minutes.

7. Store the cooled biscotti between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Corby Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and the author of The Joy of Coffee.

More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound.

Copyright © 2000 by Corby Kummer.
Recipes and illustrations from Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri. HarperCollins: New York, New York, 2000. Hardcover, 384 pages. ISBN: 0060192852 $35.00. Copyright © by Nick Malgieri.
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