Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hatch Cookies

I'm one of those people who get obsessed with Hatch chiles right about this time every year. I didn't figure they'd be as excited about a specific New Mexican pepper growing region up here, but Whole Foods (again, Texas-based) actually has them and I'm buying them in 5 lb. increments. Anything I make right now has a pepper or three thrown in and my baked goods are no exception.

This is a recipe I created a couple years ago. They're spicy/sweet/tangy/crunchy and they've been a staple casual dessert at my fajita/taco parties. My only frustration is that I haven't been able to get a satisfactory texture without a higher butter content. I'm pretty sure the problem was the whey, so substituting yogurt cheese or fat-free cream cheese would probably work, but I had a deadline that needed to be met so I decided to "re-familiarize" myself with my recipe before I tinkered with it again.
Recipe: Hatch Cookies with Cornmeal and Lime
As always, you can just use all-purpose flour in lieu of both whole-wheat varieties. I tend to use whatever cornmeal I have on hand: yellow, white, stoneground, polenta, etc. Stone ground cornmeal will have a crunchier texture; blue cornmeal obscured the flecks of green and was my least favorite.
My mother thinks I just like to get things dirty* but I think it's best to use both the food processor and the mixer on this one because you want to make the lime bits as small as possible and the Hatch bits as non-pureed as possible. If you can't possibly wash both contraptions, try doing it all in the food processor and let me know how it goes.

1 Hatch chile, roasted, skinned, and seeded ~1/4 cup

1 cup cornmeal [yellow or white]
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup white or evaporated can sugar
zest (rind) of 3 limes, juice after zesting and reserve for divided use
8 tbs (1 stick) butter
1 large egg
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

~2-3 tablespoons remaining lime juice
~2/3-1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Fine dice the chile and refrigerate to cool [you don't want it to melt the butter]. Whisk dry ingredients together [evenly distribute cornmeal and flour] and set aside.

Process sugar and lime zest in a food processor until sugar is uniformly green and only tiny flecks of lime skin remain ~2-3 minutes. Transfer to mixer bowl and add butter. Beat on high until pale and fluffy ~4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat until fully incorporated ~1 minute, then drizzle in lime juice and almond while the mixer is running. Scrape down the bowl, add chiles, and mix briefly on low speed until dispersed [the flour will clump on them if they're not already mixed in].

Add half of the dry mix, mix on low until mostly incorporated, then add the rest. Dough should be soft and somewhat sticky. Chill no more than 20 minutes in the freezer or refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375F. Drop by tablespoons** onto parchment lined baking sheets, ~12 per sheet, and bake for 16-19 minutes or until cookies are faintly golden around the edges, rotating sheets after 8 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.

While cookies are cooling, measure out remaining lime juice into a small mixing bowl and add 1/3 cup powder for each tablespoon of juice and a pinch of salt [2 T juice should be enough for 2 dz cookies]. Whisk with a fork until no clumps remain, or pass the mixture through a strainer. Once cookies are no longer hot, line them up as close together as possible and use a fork to drizzle/spatter the lime glaze over them. Once glaze dries, store in an airtight container.

* She's not wrong. I do.

** If you happen to have a portioning scoop, let the dough warm up a tiny bit before you scoop it. Higher-butter doughs get pretty hard and can bend the ratcheting mechanism and I now need to buy a new scoop.

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