Cookies of "caratteristico colore giallo e aspetto rustico."

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by theaterman, Nov 9, 2014.

  1. theaterman


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    Home Chef
       For the Italian Foodies out there: I am trying to recreate a bit of nostalgia. In bakeries in the Italian neighborhood where I grew up (long ago "urban-renewed" out of existence) there were small biscotti called Zaletti - although one baker called them Gialetti (little yellows), which sounds more like the original name (Venetian? Does anybody know for real?) - a dry, semi-sweet cookie based on roughly half cornmeal and half flour. I have seen these fancied-up for holidays with a topping of pignoli nuts, even dusted with confectioner's sugar. My attempt had a simple dusting of granulated sugar. Sanding sugar would have overwhelmed their small shape.

    The old Italian proportions I found called for only 1:6, sugar to flours. Modern recipes called for much higher. I compromised with roughly 1:4 - which made them assuredly not sweet, but did leave a slight bitter aftertaste. Next batch will be 1:5. My guess is bitterness was really from substituting about 1/3 Masa Harina in with the cornmeal in a (misguided?) attempt at a finer meal (it's treated with lime before grinding).

    The other required ingredient is dried currants - soaked of course in dark rum or cognac. Real ones are now easier to find, and getting cheaper (currant bushes, like gooseberries, were once banned in the U.S.) And forget those Zante currants, which actually are dried miniature grapes.

    I found it best to adjust proportions to make rolled out, hand cut slabs that had been totally chilled - treated like a pastry dough actually. Slender parallelograms were baked at a lower temperature and less time than recipes seemed to want. The ones from childhood memory were cakey, very yellow - probably from colorants - and quite dry. I don't know how authentic mine were, but they were a huge hit, served with strong Russian tea, golden apples and Forelle pears, and a side of lingonberry preserves. A perfect combination; the pears were the sweetest thing on the table.