It’s a rainy Sunday morning. I just got back from the Kingfield farmer’s market – my first visit of the season though it started up again last week. I’m listening to my favorite Sunday morning show on the local college radio station. I just pulled these Italian cornmeal and currant cookies – Zaletti – out of the oven. I’m sitting in my office, preparing to do some reading for an article revision. My dog is sitting beside me, in his chair, chin propped on the windowsill, looking nonplussed, as he does. It all sounds so damn twee and peaceful, doesn’t it? You (and I) can’t see what’s behind me in the other room. Boxes of books, piles of books on all possible surfaces, bits of tape, kicked up dust unearthed from corners where furniture that “no longer brings me joy” used to sit. (On that last note, I’m shocked by what people will buy off Craigslist.) Open boxes of halfheartedly packed cookware, bags of clothes and overly hyped contemporary literature to donate. It’s all there, waiting to be attended to, and it has to wait longer because I have to selfishly protect the time I have to write. Soon, I’ll turn on some technologically enforced self control but first I thought I’d post about these cookies, because they’re special in an understated way and I’ve been gravitating to that lately.These come from a book called The Italian Baker by Carol Field. There is a revised edition but I prefer the old one, which I found at a library book sale. I tabbed about twenty recipes to make from that book (a rustic country cake of espresso and walnuts; Focaccia alla Genovese; pear tart; fig bread) but this was the first one I went to because of the availability of the ingredients. I always have cornmeal on hand for polenta and dusting my pizza peel. And I always seem to have currants on hand too because I really like them in scones and breads. Needless to say, if you like these two flavors, you’ll like these cookies. I should warn you though that they are like a lot of other Italian baked goods: simple, not too sweet, a little dry, a little hard. Perfect for dipping into milk, coffee, tea, or even wine. As a child I liked dipping chocolate chip cookies in orange juice. I haven’t tried that with these but I bet it would work. I first made a batch of these cookies a month or two ago. But there was so much dough, and I knew I didn’t want that many cookies around, so I wrapped some of the dough in plastic, but it in a container, and froze it. I knew these stressful days would benefit from the presence of effortlessly baked delicious cookies. And here we are. I hope you’re having a fun weekend, whether you are in the US celebrating the long weekend, or elsewhere. I’m planning on watching Late Phases tonight because I’ve been in a horror mood lately. Have you seen The Babadook? Get to it, if you haven’t. And make these cookies.ZALETTI
From The Italian Baker
Makes about five dozen cookies, a LOT
3/4 cup currants (or dark seedless raisins), soaked in rum to cover
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (160 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (220 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for the raisins
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (200 grams) fine yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Soak the currants in the rum at least 30 minutes and drain. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Sift in the 1 1/2 cups flour, the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, and mix well. Toss the currant with 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and stir into the dough.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll into an 18 inch log, about 1 3/4 inches thick, and slice the log at 3/8 inch intervals. Using your fingers, pat and shape each piece into an oval or diamond, about 3 inches long. Place about 2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. The cookies will spread and puff as they bake. Bake until lightly browned, between 15-20 minutes. Start checking at 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to racks. They will keep in an airtight container.