Today's Cook the Book recipe is for zaletti, a polenta cookie studded with grappa-soaked currants. When I talked with Gina DePalma, the author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts From the Babbo Kitchen, she listed it as one of her favorites. It's traditional to shape these cookies into diamonds—you don't have to, but as DePalma says, "it just feels right."
- 3/4 cup dried currants
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 3 tablespoons grappa
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all·purpose flour
- 1 cup instant or fine polenta
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Place the currants in a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water and grappa over them, and stir briefly to combine. Set the bowl aside to let the currants plump and cool.
Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine them. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk to break them up, then whisk in the melted butter and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat on medium speed to combine thoroughly, about 1 minute. Add the currants and their liquid and beat them into the dough on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until it is firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.
To form the cookies, use lightly floured fingers to pull off tablespoonfuls of dough and shape each one into a small, plump log about 1 1/2, inches long. Press the log down to flatten it and pinch the ends together to taper them, creating a diamond shape. Place the diamonds on the baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown around the edges and firm to the touch, rotating the sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.