The Italian Journal: A Prologue

My goal food-wise for this trip was to eat like the locals. Meet zaeti, a breakfast cookie.

by Karin Duncker • More.com Member { View Profile }

We boarded our flight, making the first class left to our seats. Did you know they give you fabulous gifts and prizes in the schmancy seats on international flights?! Little zipped bags filled with eyeshades, earplugs, swanky lotions and socks! Gone was any hope of jet set cosmo girl as I pushed all the buttons on my barcalounger seat/bed, and accepted the welcome glass of champagne. Such treatment and they didn’t even know it was my birthday trip…yet. That was soon remedied by my crafty companion (more on his wonderful sneakiness next week), so by the time the plane landed in Munich our head flight attendant made sure the whole plane knew too. And neither this jet-setting sophisticated cosmo gal (or her Ellie Mae “id”) minded one bit.

My goal food-wise for this trip was to eat like the locals, which meant ordering the specialties of each city we visited. I happily succeeded, and discovered terrific new dishes I would never had found otherwise.  When pouring through the many meals to pick the first recipe, I figured a good place to start would be breakfast. If you’ve ever traveled to Italy you know that Italians don’t really do breakfast like we do. A strong cup of coffee, maybe a little pastry or such with it and they are good to go. So that’s what we did, and in Venice I happily discovered zaeti. Zaeti are large oval-shaped cookies made with cornmeal, raisins or chocolate chips, a shot of grappa, all held together with a copious amount of butter. MY kind of breakfast! I researched the recipe when I got home, substituted my preference for liqueur (vin santo) and think I got it right. One of these and some good coffee is my idea of a breakfast of champions, ala Italia!

Veneziano Zaeti (Venetian Polenta Cookies)

Makes about 2 dozen

These cookies, made yellow by cornmeal and egg yolks, are a staple in every bakery in Venice and with a strong cup of coffee make the perfect start to the day!

The original recipe I found was in grams (and in Italian), so after translating I decided to include both grams and cups so everyone could follow.

  • 250 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks plus one tablespoon)
  • 200 grams sugar (1 cup)
  • 250 grams all purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 150 grams corn flour (1¼ cups cornmeal)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 generous shot, or 2 generous tablespoons of vin santo, grappa, limoncello, or any other liqueur you’d like, or you could leave out
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 200 grams (1 ¼ cups) raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg yolks one at a time until incorporated. Add vanilla and vin santo (or whatever you are using) and mix thoroughly.

Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix until completely incorporated. Fold in raisins or chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto paper-lined cookie sheets, and form the cookies into ovals about 2 ½ inches long. The cookies will spread a good deal, so only put two next to each other (I got about 6/sheet, evenly spaced.)

Bake for 10 minutes, reverse sheets, and bake another 10 minutes until slightly golden brown on bottom. Cool on rack, brew up the espresso, and mangiare! Calories: approximately 200 per cookie, but it IS breakfast, and you’ll walk that off on the cobblestones.

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