The following recipe is from the newly revised edition of Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1999. She is author of seven previous award-winning cookbooks, and this revised edition of her first book has been inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.

Cornmeal Cat's Tongues

This is a new recipe. It was not in any of the previous printings of this book or in any of my other books. It is a new version of a very old Italian recipe called Krumari, or Crumari. These are tiny, dainty, delicate . . . crisp, crunchy, wonderful. Although these are quite plain, they are addictive and totally irresistible. In other words, these are the cat's meow. You will use a pastry bag to make them. And they will keep very well in an airtight container.

Yield: about 110 small cookies

  • 7 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (see Note 1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal, ground fine
  • 1 3/4 cups triple-sifted all-purpose flour (see Note 2)
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 350°. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment and prepare each parchment as follows with guide lines for three rows of 3-inch cookies.

Use a ruler and a pencil. Mark a 1-inch border along each long side. From these marks measure 3 inches toward the middle and make a mark. And then center a 3-inch strip in the middle. Draw connecting lines. Place the lined sheets on a table - it is easier to work with a pastry bag at table height than at counter height.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter with the salt, vanilla, and sugar until well mixed. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating until well mixed after each. Stop the beater. Add the cornmeal and flour. Beat on low speed, scraping the bowl with the rubber spatula, and beating only until incorporated.

Fit a 16-inch pastry bag with aplain round tube #3 that has a 5/16-inch opening. Fold down a deep cuff on the outside of the bag. Work with only about a third of the dough at a time: Place about a third of the dough in the pastry bag. Unfold the cuff and close the top of the bag by twisting it together. Squeeze the top of the bag to force the dough down to the tip of the bag.

Using the guide lines, press out little sticks of the dough about as thick as a pencil and only 3 inches long, leaving almost an inch of space between the cookies.

To cut off the dough at the end of a cookie it is usually enough to just twist the bag a bit and pull it away from the cookie. But sometimes that doesn't do it. Then press the point of the tube flat against the cookie sheet. That will do it. If the paper slips out of place while you are shaping the cookies, place a weight on one corner.

Bake two sheets at a time for 15 to 20 minutes. The success of these depends on careful timing. Please don't set a timer and walk away. Please watch them frequently. Reverse the sheets top to bottom and front to back once or twice during baking. Bake until the cookies are golden-colored (they might be darker on the edges).

Remove the cookies one at a time as they finish. Transfer baked cookies to racks or to a large brown paper bag to cool and then store airtight. If you bake one sheet alone bake it on the higher of the two racks. One sheet alone will bake in less time.

Notes:

1. The butter must be at room temperature. If it is too cold it will make the batter too stiff.

2. The flour must be sifted before it is measured or you might be using too much and that would make the batter too stiff. I use a triple sifter. If you use a single sifter or a strainer, sift or strain the flour three times before measuring.

P. S. Because I make these often, I reuse the same paper that has the drawn guidelines many times. I don't actually shape the cookies on that paper. I place another blank sheet of parchment on top and shape the cookies on that. The guidelines on the bottom paper show through the top sheet.

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