I love the idea of gardening. I daydream of having an endless supply of homegrown carrots and mandarin oranges. I ponder those soulful metaphors connected to pruning, taking in enough light, and planting seeds in good soil. I even have the yard space for gardening, and there is no doubt that I live in a garden-encouraging city. All this, and yet I must admit it: I am not a gardener.
I could tell you the usual excuses: how my yard is a giant bed of hard clay, how new soil and planters are expensive, and how I am low on free time. While this is all true, the real reason I’m not a gardener is because I just don’t make gardening a priority. In my horticultural ignorance, I don’t really know where to begin -- and even if I did, I simply choose to fill my evenings and weekends with other crafts and activities.
So when I challenged myself to bake with local ingredients for , I mentally drew a red “X” over my own house. I dismissed my own admittedly un-gardening territory, presuming instead that I’d always have to look for ingredients nearby, but never so near as home itself.
But yesterday I decided to take another look at my backyard with fresh eyes, and was quickly reminded of the rosemary bush and some peppermint growing near the deck. They don’t come to mind often; they’ve both grown effortlessly since before I moved here. I’ve snipped them occasionally for savory dishes, but never thought of them for baking sweet treats -- until last night. The peppermint recipe is still brewing in my head (coming soon), but here is what I made with the rosemary:
Rosemary Crunch Cookies
(Makes about 30 cookies)
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary*
1 ¼ cup flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
2 teaspoons red wine
¾ cup pine nuts (slivered almonds, which are less expensive and easier to find, would also be tasty)
*I have plenty if you need some; or, check out the Tuesday !
Toast pine nuts on a cookie sheet at 300° for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, rosemary, baking powder, and salt (if using) in a small bowl; set aside. Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl until light in color; add egg and lemon zest and mix until incorporated. Mix in wine, blending well, then add dry ingredients and mix until dough is even in consistency. Fold in the pine nuts until equally distributed.
Form balls of dough (about 1¼ inch diameter, or a little smaller) and place them 1 - 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. (If dough is too sticky, chill it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before shaping, and use damp hands.) Place cookie sheet of dough balls in the freezer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, increase oven to 350°. Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown and tops are toasty with small cracks. Let cool on cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes.
Like most baked goods, Rosemary Crunch Cookies are wonderful when still slightly warm. When cooled, they are crisp and delicious dipped into tea. The cornmeal and turbinado sugar impart a delightful crunch, while the rosemary provides an unexpected herbal flavor upon first bite.
Many thanks to my beloved neighbors (the ), who generously provided not only the cornmeal for this recipe, but also an enthusiastic and pleasant baking assistant.