Polenta Cookies from the Veneto
I love, love these cookies. The combination of flavors and textures--the corny, chewy polenta, the sweet, grappa-soaked currants, and the aromatic lemon zest – makes them perfectly yummy and comforting. I imagine that children in the Veneto ask for exactly this kind of cookie when they come home from school. During my last visit to Venice, I spotted the biggest zaletti I had ever seen in the window of a pastry shop; they were at least six inches long, which is pretty hefty for a cookie. I like to make them a bit smaller--the length of my pinkie always seems like a good call. An easy way to shape diamonds is to roll a bit of dough into a small log, flatten it and then pinch and taper the tends. You can also roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut it to into diamonds with a knife or a cutter. You don’t have to form these cookies as diamonds, but I think it is nice to keep the spirit of tradition with them--it just feels right.
Makes3 ½ to 4 dozen cookies
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe Coursedessert, snack
Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian
Mealdinner, snack, tea
Taste and Texturebuttery, chewy, fruity, sweet
Type of Dishcookie, dessert
- ¾ cup dried currants
- ¼ cup boiling water
- 3 tablespoons grappa
- 1 ¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup instant or fine polenta
- ¾ cup granulated sugar, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Place the currants in a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water and grappa over them, and stir briefly to combine. Set the bowl aside to let the currants plump and cool.
Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine them. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk to break them up, then whisk in the melted butter and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed to combine thoroughly, about 1 minute. Add the currants and their liquid and beat them into dough on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.
To form the cookies, use lightly floured fingers to pull off tablespoonfuls of dough and shape each one into a small, plump log about 1 ½ inches long. Press the log down to flatten it and pinch the ends together to taper them, creating a diamond shape. Place the diamonds on the baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown around the edges and firm to the touch, rotating the sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
2007 Gina DePalma