Pàn de mèj (Elderflower and polenta sweet buns from Milan)

It is elderflower time now in England: on a sunny day if you come across elderflower bushes, you are hit by their unmistakable, intensely floral, sweet smell. Sambuco (elderflower) is the star ingredient of these very old, crumbly, perfumed Milanese buns, centuries ago  made with millet flour, later with corn (polenta) flour.  Traditionally, in Milan until the post First World War years, pàn de mèj buns were eaten on the 23rd April, St George’s day, the patron saint of lattai, milkmen. On that day, lattai used to offer single cream to their customers,  knowing that they would later on customarily pour it over the pàn de mèj . Continue reading

Biscotti al mais (polenta shortbread biscuits)

One can find biscuits made with corn (maize or polenta) flour in many parts of Northern Italy. They can be plain or with sultanas, are always rather buttery, and are most often flavoured with vanilla, lemon or orange. Sometimes they’re crisp and short, sometimes softer and more cakey.
I particularly like this version: not too rich, sweet but with a salty bite, super crisp and with that lovely crunchiness of polenta flour.  I have them for breakfast with my espresso and in the afternoon with tea, but they also go very well with fruit compote and  ice cream. Continue reading