Zaeti (polenta and raisin biscuits from Veneto)

Zaeti (polenta biscuits)
Zaeti (polenta biscuits)

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Zaeti is Veneto dialect for the Italian gialletti, literally “the little yellow ones”. They are buttery, crumbly polenta (maize or cornmeal) biscuits, plump with raisins and you will spot them in patisseries and bakeries in Venice, Padua and other Veneto towns.
There are many versions, more or less rich, but they all share a charming culinary humbleness, which is one of the key marks of genuine Italian cooking. 
Traditionally diamond-shaped, they can also be baked as rounds. They are rather soft when freshly  baked but they crisp up during the following days, always delicious – they are ideal biscuits for the winter months. The following version comes from my pen-friend Clelia (from Padua): over the years she has given me many family recipes and this one is another gem.

 

Zaèti di Clelia  – ricetta padovana
Clelia’s zaèti – polenta biscuits from Padua

250 gr fine-milled maize flour, called fioretto in Italian (if you cannot find it, grind some regular polenta flour in a coffee grinder)
250 gr 00 flour or plain flour
pinch of salt
150 gr caster sugar
4 eggs
200gr butter at room temperature, i.e. very soft
100 gr raisins made plump in water (I plumped them up in grappa)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the vanilla until the mix is thick and airy.
Mix the two flours, the salt and the lemon zest.
Add the egg mix, the butter and the raisins to the flours and mix to a dough. Clelia told me to add some milk if the dough was too thick, but my dough was actually on the soft side: it really depends on the flours. If your dough is sticky, do not be tempted to add more flour. Simply transfer it to a heavily floured surface, pat it into a rectangle and dust it with extra flour. As an alternative, refrigerate the dough until it has firmed up a little.

Divide it into ropes and cut each rope into a diamond-shaped biscuit.
Bake at 175 Celsius for about 15 minutes. Dust the biscuits with icing sugar while they are still hot. I loved them freshly baked, slightly warm but they are delicious also when they crisp up.

 

 

9 thoughts on “Zaeti (polenta and raisin biscuits from Veneto)

    1. hi Kreso, thanks, … they are… and u can play around with the recipe too. I am right now reading and pinning your lovely sounding poppy seed cake (I have some in the fridge and I want to use them)

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  1. We spent a month outside Padua a few years back (2011, I think … how time flies). I’m sorry that I missed these, but glad you give me the chance to make up for it. They sound/look delicious!

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    1. … ah, Padua! one of the loveliest cities in Northern Italy, IMHO….. + where the spritz “was born” (which is in itself a great accomplishment!)

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      1. Yeah, I had a few of those. 😉 I look back so fondly on our time there. It was a beautiful home in the Colli Euganei. The only thing I didn’t like about it was driving up to the house—I was always terrified I was going to hit one of the many, many cyclists!

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  2. Ciao Stefano – I am a rotten visitor ’cause I normally do not bake. But you have used three magical words: ‘polenta’, ‘raisins’ and ‘Venice’ . . . and I AM a curious bird – so here we go! So let me smile and prep and I’ll tell you what happened in very far-off Australia with your biscuits a little later . . . 🙂 !!

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  3. they are! I have made them again tonite… and I thought that an easier way of handling the soft dough would be to refrigerate it for some time – I don’t know why I did not think of that before. I did not have fioretto today and I simply ground some polenta in my coffee grinder. ciao, stefano

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  4. Sounds lovely! I’m not much of a baker but these sound easy enough even for me. May give them a go—can occasionally find fioretto-type polenta in stores close by.

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