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Zaletti - the Venetian Cookie

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These simple Italian cookies, also called zalettini, use corn flour for crunchiness and color.

Italian pastry is nowhere near the complexity achieved by the French, but it has some simple recipes honored by centuries of tradition. This cookie uses tiny currants infused in rum to give the most amazing flavor to the crumbly cookie. Some pastry shops sell this in a rhomboid shape or with vanilla and lemon zest. In Italian they are pronounced [tsa-let-ee], not [zaaah-let-eye].

200 gr butter
250 gr fine corn flour
250 gr regular flour
250 gr sugar
150 gr currants
60 gr rhum
1 egg yolk
baking powder

The currants are the tiniest dried grapes you can find (see picture). Use corn flour, not polenta which is much coarser. Butter should be at room temperature or put 30 seconds in the microwave to soften. Do not use melted butter. I recommend you use the best rum you can afford as it will give the cookies most of their flavor.

In a bowl mix rum with currants and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Mix from time to time so that all currants will absorb some of the rum.

Heat the oven to 170░C.

In a bowl or kitchen machine, cream the sugar with the butter. Add the egg yolk and cream again.

Mix a little salt, a teaspoon of baking powder and both flours and sift together.

Add to the butter-sugar mixture and mix well.

You will obtain a yellow crumble. Mix in the currants and rum.

Take a little dough in your hand an squeeze. If it can't keep its shape, add a little butter and work the dough until you can shape it into a ball and it won't fall apart.

Divide the dough in to and shape two little logs. Flatten the logs to get a squarish section.

Cut the cookies in 10mm/ 0.4'' slices.

Place parchment paper on a baking tray and lay the cookies with at least 10mm/0.4'' spacing between each other.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Turn around the trays at mid time for a more uniform baking. The cookies are better if slightly brown on the edge.

Remove from the oven and carefully lay on a cooling tray. The cookies need at least 20 minutes cooling to harden. The smell in the kitchen will be so enthralling I recommend you post a guard outside the door or the entire household will come and loot the cookie tray.

The zalettis are best eaten within a few hours as the volatile rum-currant fragrance will dissipate after that.

You can find this recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.


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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!


  • #1
  • Comment by Tosca
I was wondering whether you could have forgotten to form a ball of the dough and put it in the refridgerator for about an hour? Other recipes on the web advise to let the dough rest for a while. I'm baking them right now, I'll let you know the results.
  • #2
  • Answered by fx
Tosca, indeed letting the dough rest for a while is a good idea for two reasons. First this will the flour hydrate fully, and second, which I believe is not applicable in this particular recipe, the gluten can rest after you have worked the dough. Good luck!
  • #3
  • Comment by Bea

I'll make this recipe first thing tomorrow morning!!!..
Thanks for all the tips we find in your site. IS THE MOST "CONFORTABLE" place to be, when you are looking for perfection, Thanks for sharing your years of experience.

Do you have a recipe for French Macarons??..I'm on my "quest" to master them..but..not yet...wish I could go to Paris just for 1 day and have my chance for the Macarons course with Lenotre...but I can't...

Thanks for your generosity!!!
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
Bea, thanks for your praise! Macaroons are tricky to make, they have a special class for them at Len˘tres - their most successful in fact. You need to use very clean egg whites which you leave in the fridge for a week or so, and use only white almond powder with super fine sugar. That much I know!
  • #5
  • Comment by Richard Bijster, Rotterdam, Netherlands
I'd like to make these tomorrow but I have a question about one ingredient.  Corn flour.  I've bought 'Farina di mais/ 'Semoule de mais' as I this seems to be the only corn flour I can find, apart from the usual cornflour [cornstarch for non UK readers] thickening agent.  Can you advise if 'Farina di mais' is the correct ingredient?


  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Richard, you should not use cornstarch, which is only the starch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornstarch#Manufacture), but rather cornmeal (ground corn). A very fine polenta flour will work. Good luck!
  • #7
  • Comment by Mascha
Thanks for the recipe! They are just out of the oven. They are DELICIOUS! I had to do a few modificatons to the original though: had no rum at home, so had to use some good brandy - which turned out just fine. I also decided to substitute grapes for dates (as being less trivial) and for actual dried cranberries to bring in some acidity. I took 50-50 of each and soaked them in brandy. I was not able to find corn flour either, so doing some polenta in a coffee grinder did the trick. Cookies are deiciously crunchy as a result - since I guess the "flour" turned out to be a bit more coarse than the one you actually buy. I also forgot the baking powder, but the dough raised a bit just fine without it. I also discovered that the dough from your original recipy falls apart when I try to shape it into a sausage. So I added 1 more egg yolk (small egg though), then added 15 gr of brandy and 20 gr of milk into the dough - and then it was so malleable and stuck so well together that you could turn it into Venus de Milo without any problem. Now the result looks like a freewheeler's interpretation of zalettini rather than the real thing, but it is very good nevertheless. Thanks!
  • #8
  • Comment by Henning
These zaletti are delicious! I always make them when the kids need a gift for their teachers. Everybody loves them and asks for the recipe. Thanks!
  • FX's answer→ Glad you liked them Henning!

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