MAKES: 3 to 4 dozen
TIME: About 11/2 hours, largely unattended
With their slightly salty finish and subtle sweetness, these cookies offer the best of both worlds. Semolina makes the texture tender and crumbly, almost shortbreadlike with buttery richness. It’s best to roll the dough into a relatively small narrow log so the cookies are less fragile. Use finely ground cornmeal if you don’t have semolina; all all-purpose flour is fine too. But it’s important to use sea salt for the final sprinkling.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Use an electric mixer on low speed to mix the butter and sugar together just until combined, 30 seconds or so. Still on low speed, beat in the egg yolk, then the flours and salt, until the mixture barely holds together; this will take a few minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a round, triangular, or rectangular log about 1 inch in diameter; wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. (Or freeze the log, well wrapped, for up to 3 months.)
Preheat the oven to 325В°F. Unwrap the dough and slice it 1/4-inch thick, put the slices on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle each with a little sea salt, and bake right away until the cookies are firm but not browning, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let them cool in the pan for a minute or two, and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Pine Nut Cookies. All sweet, not salty. Drizzle the tops with Orange Glaze or Berry Jam Glaze for even more sweetness and flavor: Substitute granulated sugar for the brown and 1 whole egg for the yolk. Omit the sea salt for sprinkling. In Step 1, add 1 cup see toasted pine nuts along with the flour.
Ginger Spice Cookies. A more tender and mild ginger-snap: Substitute all-purpose flour for the semolina and in Step 1 add 2 teaspoons grated or finely minced peeled fresh ginger and 1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves along with the egg and flour.
Black Pepper Cookies. With a kick of black pepper and a fine grainy texture: Substitute granulated sugar for the brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Proceed with the recipe, but instead of the sea salt, sprinkle an additional grind of black pepper on top of each cookie just before baking.
Sichuan Peppercorn Cookies. Substitute granulated sugar for the brown. In Step 1, add 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns along with the eggs and flour.