I love to bake. It is one of the great joys of my life. Baking from scratch is a delightful endeavor filled with math, years of learned finesse, and scientific precision. Heck, before all this COVID stuff started, my five-year plan was to open my own bakery! But as y'all know, the best parts of baking are 1.) making your house smell like a bakery and, 2.) eating cookies warm from the oven. Sometimes, especially during this work-from-home phase, all I want is the best parts without all the fuss. Am I alone in craving instant gratification sometimes? Am I the only one who loves a good baking mix in a pinch?? Say it ain't so, folks! When I had heard about the Corn Cookie Baking Mix from Trader Joe's, I knew I wanted to try it. The only things you need to add are two sticks of butter and an egg, and the end result is a marvel that tastes like a cross between a sugar cookie and cornbread. At $2.99, it's a steal.
Table of contents
The first (cookie) amendment.
I feel like y'all know by now that I'm a meddler. A rule-breaker. Someone who can't leave well enough alone. A real sucker for the dynamics of a salty-sweet treat. While I wanted to give TJ's the benefit of the doubt and follow their recipe to a T, I don't even carry unsalted butter in my refrigerated aisle. Kerrygold Salted Butter is my go to, even for baking. So even though the "recipe" calls for two sticks of unsalted butter, I went with my gut and used the salted stuff.
For me personally, it was a very good decision. The cookies came out a perfect balance of salt and sweet. If you want your cookies to taste more like Northerner's cornbread where a bunch of sugar is added and it tastes more like a cake, stick with unsalted and you'll get sweet on sweet. (No judgement!) But if you want a play on cookies meet Southern cornbread, I recommend going the salted route for a little more chiaroscuro on the tongue. (Yes, I know that's not the right term. But shouldn't it be?? The interplay of light and dark should be easily exchangeable for sweet and salty, yeah? I'm going with it. Sorry, Mr. Roberts!)
The cookies came out perfectly golden brown on the bottoms and edges, and soft and chewy on top. They have a lovely texture from the addition of cornmeal, which enhances the cornbread association, as well as underscores the sweet corn flavor. There's a lovely perfume of vanilla to them as well, which plays so beautifully with the flavor profile. They were just about perfect.
The second (cookie) amendment.
You know I can't help myself. I couldn't stop at just one adjustment. My other customization came in the form of fresh blueberries. Corn and blueberries are the epitome of summer flavors, and for some reason, I was really craving them together. Perhaps the idea was implanted in my mind from Smitten Kitchen's weekly email about corn and blueberries last week. But none of the recipes in that email used them both together! It just seemed like a match made in heaven, and I couldn't stop obsessing until I got my wish. And y'all. Blueberry Corn Cookies? It was as good a match as PB & J. I can't believe I hadn't tried anything like it before.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christina Tosi's Blueberries and Cream cookies. But those are literally the only cookies I've ever tried that have blueberries in them. And she uses dried blueberries, which have a distinctively different flavor and texture than fresh berries. And while the Blueberries and Cream cookies do have some corn products in them, the corn flavor is muted at best.
I should warn you that the addition of the berries also means the addition of moisture. The cookies that had berries were far more prone to bending and breaking in storage. The crumb is softer, and you lose the crunch of the sides and the bottom. You should also expect that they will not be nearly as uniform as their plain counterparts. But what you gain is bright, delicate, fruity freshness. And the pieces of the blueberries that catch on the pan turn into a delightful fruity caramel. I highly recommend you go the half-and-half route that I did, scooping half the corn cookie dough as intended and half with the blueberries.
What to expect when expecting (cookies from this mix).
Here's the deal with the dough, though. As someone who has made A LOT of cookies in her time, I have to tell you that this dough is odd. I had to fight every baker's instinct I have when I completed mixing in the required ingredients. The instructions read "combine cookie mix and egg with butter and mix until dough comes together evenly." To me, that means that there will be a homogenous dough at the end of mixing. That was not the case at all.
Instead, the mix ended up looking sandy, almost like what you would expect from a crumb topping. I wasn't sure what the texture of the end product was supposed to be, but like I said, this didn't look like any "dough" I had ever encountered before. But, having heard reviews of the TJ's Lemon Bar Baking Mix from my friends Jess and RayRay, I was prepared for this odd consistency. Moral of the story: DON'T ADD MORE BUTTER OR EGG TO GATHER THE DOUGH TOGETHER. You don't need it. Just be sure to press the dough together (using a disher makes this much easier) into little balls to bake.
Because the dough is so crumbly, the addition of blueberries was also a little tricky. I just gently stirred them through the mix, and then used the disher to scoop up at least three berries into each corn cookie. I still compacted the dough to keep them together when placing on the cookie sheet. Just work gently, as the blueberries will bust open pretty easily and make it more difficult for you to make nice drop cookies.
Choose your own ending.
I can think of a half dozen ways to play with this mix. In fact, it's making me want to bust out my ice cream maker so I can switch out having blueberries in the cookies themselves and instead stuff them with fresh blueberry ice cream or frozen yogurt. I can also oddly see them paired with a Cincinnati type chili. I'd love to layer them into some kind of trifle. Or I could crumble them and use them as a topping for a coffee cake or streusel muffins.
All I know is, next time I'm at Trader Joe's I'll be buying a few of these to keep on hand. There's no shame in the boxed mix game! Haven't you tried my Upside Down Cake? Anyway, when the winter months are dreary, and turning on the oven helps to both keep the house warm and my spirits lifted, these little beauties will remind me of the sweet flavors of summer awaiting me with almost no effort at all. I recommend you stock up, too. You won't be sorry you did.
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