Zaleti are named for their yellow color (zalo in Venetian dialect, giallo in Italian). These traditional cookies are made with corn and white flours, eggs, sugar, butter, raisins and lemon zest.
Generations of Venetian families have varied this recipe by reducing or adding other ingredients. For example, pinoli (pine nuts) can substitute the raisins. Some Venetian bakers double the corn flour and eliminate the white flour.
Enjoy these zaleti and then create your own version of the recipe.
Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 20 to 24 cookies
1 cup yellow corn flour
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unbleached, granulated sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in luck warm water for 5 minutes
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 10 x 15-inch baking sheets and set them aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flours, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and the sugar until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
5. Stir in the lemon zest, drained raisins and the flour mixture. Beat on medium speed until the dough is uniform and has a cookie dough consistency (neither too hard nor too soft).
6. Turn the dough onto a smooth, floured surface and divide it into two balls.
7. Shape each ball into a log measuring 12 x 2 inches. With lightly floured hands, remove a 2-inch piece of dough, shaping it into a ball and then flattening it into a 2-inch circle.
8. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging each dough circle on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.
9. Shape the dough into a boat by tapering the circles at opposite ends – they should now measure 3 inches long.
10. Set the baking sheets in oven and bake 7 minutes.
11. After 7 minutes, invert top and bottom baking sheets. Bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.
12. The zaleti are done when bottoms are golden. Remove the cookies from baking sheets and cool on a rack or a platter.
13. At serving time, dust the zaleti with powdered sugar.
Text & Photograph © 2012 Nancy DeLucia Real