Venetian Raisin and Polenta Cookies

Zaletti Venessiani

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • About

    3 dozen

    Venetian zaletti

Appears in

When I was teaching and living in Bologna, the baker Margherita Simili, who was assisting me at the school, showed me how to make a Bolognese polenta cookie called zalett, which she explained meant “little yellow ones” in the dialect of Bologna. I included the recipe in one of my earlier books.

When I came to live in Venice and, like everyone else in the city, spent a good part of the day walking, every time I looked in a baker’s shop I saw trays of cookies identified as zaletti. They didn’t look the least bit like the flat bright yellow zalett of Bologna. They were darker; they were lumpy with raisins; and when I tasted one, unlike the crisp Bolognese polenta cookie, it was soft.

As I soon learned, Venetians called them“za-eh’tti,” dropping the “l,” as is their custom; and these were the local version of cookies with polenta. Again there was an expert friend, Mara Martin of the restaurant Da Fiore, willing to show me how to make them. If you like the graininess and fragrance of polenta and the sweetness of raisins, you should find these cookies very agreeable.

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Ingredients

  • 4 ounces (¾ cup) black raisins, soaked ahead of time; see below
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) butter plus 1 tablespoon, softened at room temperature; plus butter for smearing the baking pan
  • 1 scant cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour for the raisins, plus flour for dusting the baking pan
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt

The largest rectangular baking pan that will fit your oven

Method

  1. Put the raisins in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of rum and enough warm water to cover. Let soak a minimum of 1 hour, but if you can let them steep thus overnight they will puff up even more.
  2. Turn the oven on to 350°.
  3. Put the softened butter and the confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and mix for about 10 minutes, using any hand or electric mixing tool, until the mixture swells visibly.
  4. Break the eggs open into the bowl; mix well; then add both the flour and the cornmeal, the baking powder, and a pinch of salt, and continue mixing until you obtain a smooth, puffy batter.
  5. Drain the raisins, pat them dry with kitchen towels, and dust them with 2 tablespoons of flour. Add them to the bowl stirring them thoroughly into the batter.
  6. Smear the bottom of the baking pan with butter, sprinkle with flour, and then turn the pan over, giving it a tap or two against the work counter to shake off excess flour.
  7. Shape the batter into little mounds about the size of a large walnut, and place them in the pan about to 3 inches apart.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until they become colored a rich gold.

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