The sugar cookie is the Barbie of the cookie kingdom: sweet but standard. Truth to tell, I rarely bake them. With nothing to make my taste buds cry hark, the sugar cookie recipe usually only comes out to play when I'm missing ingredients for anything else.
But this is different.
The semolina gives this cookie a texture unlike any I've ever tasted. It is strangely coarse and gritty, yet delicate. The interior is soft, moist, and chewy. The flavor is buttery and delicious.
The recipe is from the wonderful blog Ya Rayi Our Rai, written by California School of Culinary Arts chef Farid Zadi. I cut the recipe by 1/3, since I really didn't need that many cookies, and I added the almond halves and coarse sugar, because I think they're pretty.
Algerian Semolina Sugar Cookies
(Recipe has been cut by 2/3 – now makes about 20 medium cookies)
2 2/3 cups semolina flour
1/3 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup almond halves, optional for topping
1/4 cup coarse sugar, optional for rolling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together.
Beat the egg yolk and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat some more. Add the vanilla. Mix the wet batter with the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are soft and puffy. Add to the rest of the dough and mix gently until it comes together. (If it won't, add a bit of water). (Zadi has a wonderful step-by-step slide show on his mixing method).
Pinch off walnut-sized pieces, shape into spheres, and place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased, parchment-lined baking sheet. Smush the spheres slightly to flatten. Roll the sides in coarse sugar and press four almond halves into the top to make a flower pattern.
Bake the cookies for 12 – 15 minutes, until light gold.