Blueberry cornmeal pancakes are one of my favorite things to make for Sunday brunch, and I’ve always wanted to make a dessert using the same flavors. (Let’s just ignore the fact that pancakes are basically a dessert on their own.) But a recent trip to my local grocery store set off a revelation, when I found freeze-dried fruit. The first thought that came to mind was: “I might be able to turn those pancakes into cookies!” Sure, I got some weird looks, but it wasn’t the first time, and, let’s be real, it probably won’t be the last.
I’ve been kind of obsessed with freeze-dried fruit for the past few years. Its texture and consistency make it possible to incorporate fruits you wouldn’t normally use in certain types of baked goods. For instance, you’d never be able to use fresh blueberries to make a tender, crumbly shortbread—as the blueberries cook and burst, they’d leak all that beautiful blueberry juice into your cookies and you’d end up with a mushy, albeit probably tasty, mess.
Freeze-dried fruit solves this problem, all while bringing a couple of bonuses to the table. For one, the blueberry flavor is way more intense in freeze-dried blueberries than in fresh ones. That means a little bit goes a very long way. Secondly, the texture is unmatched—even though the fruit absorbs some of the moisture from the fat in the cookie, it doesn’t fully rehydrate and stays pleasantly chewy, like the perfect piece of dried fruit. Every bite of crumbly, buttery shortbread comes with a little blueberry flavor bomb!
You might be surprised to see coriander on the ingredients list. Trust me, it’s not a mistake. Coriander and blueberry pair really well, and it’s not just because coriander has that lemony scent. Coriander seeds contain the flavor compound linalool, which, among various uses, is one of the main ingredients used to create artificial blueberry flavoring. In fact, lemon also contains linalool, but in smaller concentrations. So, by adding coriander and lemon to this recipe, and, well, pretty much any recipe that uses blueberries, you can intensify the blueberry flavor. Science! —Jarrett Melendez
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 35 minutes
- makes 12 shortbread cookies
1 3/4 cups
(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
finely grated lemon zest
pure vanilla extract
freeze-dried blueberries, plus 2 tablespoons more for garnish
powdered sugar, plus more as needed
freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Heat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, lightly grease an 8-inch tart pan or cake pan with a removable bottom and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
- Toast the cornmeal in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the cornmeal has darkened slightly and smells like fresh popcorn, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a medium heat-proof bowl.
- Add the flour, salt, and coriander to the bowl of cornmeal, then whisk thoroughly to combine. Set aside.
- Using either a stand mixer or handheld mixer on medium speed, cream together butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until pale, light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until thoroughly combined. The dough will be quite crumbly, but will clump together when squeezed.
- Gently fold in 1 ounce of the freeze-dried blueberries using a flexible spatula.
- Tip the dough into the prepared pan. Press the dough into the pan in an even layer, taking care to fill all of the fluted edges evenly if using a tart pan. If needed, use the flat bottom of a drinking glass to smooth the surface and press the dough down.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges just start turning golden brown and the center is slightly puffed and dry. Transfer pan to a wire rack. While the shortbread is still hot, use a knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into 12 equal wedges. Let cool completely.
- While the shortbread cools, prepare the icing and decoration. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. The icing should be a pourable, drizzling consistency. If it’s too thick, add more lemon juice, a few drops at a time. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Finely chop the reserved blueberries.
- Once the cookies are completely cool, drizzle with icing in a zig-zag pattern, then sprinkle with the reserved blueberries. Allow the icing to set before serving.