There are days when the stubborn craving for umami takes over the mind, and won't let go. So-called the 'fifth taste', the indistinct, lingering flavor of umami - not sweet, not sour, hot or salty but possibly a combination of somewhere in between all/some of these - can so often leave you wanting more. Today (takes a deep breath) seemed like one of those days for me.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to achieve umami without resorting to the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG), which, by the way, is strictly banned in my home due to health reasons. Seaweed is one type of food that contains an abundance of free glutamates and on a day like today, I count my lucky stars that we always stock tons of nori (dried seaweed sheets) in the pantry. However, rolling sushi wasn't even on the cards because I didn't particularly feel like doing hard labor just to get this craving out of the way.
Umami enhances foods it is combined with, making other flavors richer and more intense, so it made me wonder, how would nori taste in cookie-form? A sweet-savory combination sounded like a winner to me, and who doesn't like a good cookie? I took a basic shortbread recipe, blended in shredded nori, added extra salt and coated the edges in more nori. The result, these Nori Cookies, were totally Zen.
They are very simple to bake, elegant to look at, are unusually, delightfully tasty and can be served either as pre-meal nibbles or post-meal with coffee. Or simply feast on them while typing a post up like I'm doing right now, with bits of renegade nori landing like fine, green feathers on my keyboard. Really, a messy workspace is a small price to pay for a craving well-satisfied!
Makes 25-30 cookies
6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
3 nori sheets, shredded finely in a food processor
9 tablespoons (110g) powdered sugar
1½ tablespoons olive oil
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
1. Mix the butter, salt and 2 tablespoons of the shredded nori until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, then the egg yolk.
2. Scrape down the sides, then add the olive oil and flour, beat until smooth.
3. Roll the dough into two logs, each about 8-inch (20 cm) long. Roll each log on a bed of shredded nori until fully coated. Wrap each roll in plastic film and chill until firm enough to slice, about 1 hour.
4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 300F (150C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper then slice the cookies about ¼-inch (½cm) thick. Place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly-firm. Cool completely before serving.