[Annie Novak wheels greens on her Brooklyn Brewery cruiser.]
I’m not going to be ashamed: I love Martha Stewart. Martha makes me feel ashamed when I make the sloppy switch between baking powder and baking soda, and parentally proud of my 99% germination rates when sowing springtime seeds. Don’t let her love of terrariums fool you: Martha Stewart is a badass.
When I started farming for Keith Stewart in upstate New York many years ago, a well-pawed-through copy of the cookbook “Martha Stewart: Cookies” was the literary salve to my frostbitten fingers. Since the nearest grocery store was a good thirty minute drive into town, many were the nights we farm apprentices made hard sourdough loaves and dreamed of the glorious day when we’d have enough Ronnybrook (as we nicknamed butter) to make “Macadamia maple sticky bars” and “Fresh peach drop cookies.” Years later I came across “Cookies” at The Brooklyn Kitchen and snapped it up, biking home to begin fulfilling long-tendered fantasies of Martha-cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But as I pulled out the Ronnybrook and refined sugar, I realized something weird: my palate had changed. In eight years of local farming, I wanted something more than just a sweet treat.
One recipe caught my eye: the cornmeal thyme cookies. I’ve since taken the recipe and modified it to celebrate another great end-of-season crop: peppers. We grew a lot of hot peppers this year at the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The peppers do botanically great in the arid greenroof soil. My cayenne peppers (a variety called “Andy”) dry to a beautiful bright red and are easily crushed into hot pepper flakes. The cookies that resulted were buttery and sweet, with brilliant red speckles. For a final touch, I added butterscotch chips. A zinger-slinger like this treat deserves a good beer to go with it. On the golden day that Martha and I sit down for a few Brooklyn grown Cornmeal-Cayenne Butter Cookies hot out of the oven, I’d pair it with a cool Pennant Ale ’55 from Brooklyn Brewery.
+ 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
+ 1 teaspoon baking soda
+ 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
+ 1/2 teaspoon salt
+ 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
+ 1 1/4 cups sugar
+ 2 large eggs
+ 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
+ 2 tablespoons (if not more!) freshly dried cayenne chili flakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cornmeal, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; cream on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Add flour mixture; mix on low speed until just combined. Mix in butterscotch chips and red pepper flakes.
3. Using a tablespoon or a 1 1/2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop rounded balls of dough onto lined sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating and switching positions of sheets about halfway through, until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer cookies, on parchment, to a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Brooklyn Pennant Ale ’55