VENETIAN CORNMEAL DIAMONDS (ZALETI)

"A wonderful biscuit, this one from Venice, zaleti (sah-HET-ee) are to be found in all the Venetian pastry shops and are popular in one form or another all over northeastern Italy," writes Nick Malgieri in "Great Italian Desserts" (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95).

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Recommended: Default

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

3/4 cups currants or dark raisins

2 large eggs

Grated zest from 1 small-lemon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Confectioner's sugar for-finishing

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Rub in butter well, leaving mixture cool and powdery. Stir in currants. Or, pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with metal blade. Add butter (cut into 8 pieces), and pulse again 6 or 8 times until finely mixed. Pour into bowl and stir in currants.

Beat eggs with lemon zest and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture with a fork.

Flour dough lightly and divide into 4 pieces. Roll them into cylinders about an inch in diameter. Flatten the cylinders slightly and cut diagonally at 1 1/2-inch intervals, making diamond shapes.

Arrange zaleti on paper-lined cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees F. about 15 minutes, until light golden in color. Cool on racks and dust with confectioner's sugar. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen.

Variations: 1. "When pressed for time," writes Mr. Malgieri, "I bake dough in 3 logs then slice diagonally after baking." 2. "A handful of very green pistachios is spectacular added to the dough," he says: "This variation of mine is not one seen in Italy."

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