June 19, 2013

Cheddar Cornmeal Popper Cookies

Hey guys! I'm so excited to finally be able to share this recipe with you. It's a very special recipe. Not only are they really good cookies, but they won 3rd place in Cookie Wars!

Aaah, it's so exciting! When I originally entered, it was because it sounded like a fun way to challenge myself. I never dreamed I'd get in the top 3.

Cookie Wars is a challenge hosted by Baker Bettie to create an original cookie recipe using two challenge ingredients. When I was reading the list of challenge ingredients, I immediately zeroed in on cornmeal, in love with the idea of a cornmeal cookie. Then I chose the sharp cheddar cheese because it would pair well with the cornmeal, and it would be a good challenge to have the strong cheddar flavor while still keeping the cookies from venturing too far into savory.
Of course, the very moment I chose cheddar and cornmeal, these cookies took shape in my head, and I immediately started thinking of jalapeno poppers. I decided they had to have a popper-style filling made with cream cheese and pepper jelly. So I made the cookies shortbread-style, crumbly and crunchy, not overly sweet by themselves, but rolled in some raw sugar to give an extra sweet crunch. The cookies are good by themselves, but the filling takes them to a whole new level.

Or you can just smear them with pepper jelly. That's good too. I know, I tested it. For science.
My brother and sister-in-law were my guinea pigs in the initial testing phases, and my SIL fell head over heels for these cookies. She said they're probably her favorite that I've made. In fact, when I told my family that they got third place, she and my brother both wanted to know who beat me and how to take them out of the running.
I don't know what you're talking about. My family is completely normal and healthy and sane and stuff.
So thanks again to Kristin of Baker Bettie for hosting. Check out the winner here!

And don't forget, this weekend is Doctor Who Saturday! And I've got something really super special planned for you. I'm probably more excited about it than you are.

Cheddar Cornmeal Popper Cookies
Yield: About 2 dozen sandwich cookies (4-5 dozen individual)

For the cookies:
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ tsp. salt
About ½ cup raw or decorating sugar

For the filling
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. pepper jelly
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup whipping cream

For the cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg and almond extract and beat until well combined. Fold in the shredded cheddar.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cornmeal,salt, and flour. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Continue to beat on low until the flour is completely incorporated. Be careful not to overmix.

Divide the dough in three equal parts. Roll each part into a log about 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Working with one cookie dough log at a time, roll the log in the raw sugar so that it is well coated. Slice into even rounds about ¼ inch thick, and place them at least 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Sprinkle with more of the cheddar cheese, and bake 7-10 minutes, until the edges are set and just begin to brown. Let the cookies cool on the pan 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling: With electric beaters, beat the cream cheese, butter, and jelly at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the cream and beat on medium until just combined. Increase speed to high and whip until thickened and smooth. Sandwich a thin layer of filling between two cooled cookies.

Recipe by Kim