I don’t know if anybody else is going to like these. Not the best way to start a post, I realize, but this isn’t one of those guaranteed-crowd-pleaser types of recipes. It pleases the Preschooler and I, and that’s about all I can guarantee. There are cookies that will kill you with sweetness and there are cookies that won’t, and while there is definitely a place for both (right here in my stomach), these fall firmly in the latter category. However, after the Caramel deLite incident(s), this is a welcome departure.
Zaleti is the traditional name for these northern Italian cornmeal cookies, usually made with lemon rind and grappa-soaked raisins. I use dried cranberries plumped with brandy instead and a perky pinch of zested tangerine peel. Then I cut them into diamond shapes and, after they’ve baked and cooled, give them a February dusting of powdered sugar. They’re like a rustic tea cookie if tea parties took place in the woods instead of fancy hotels. With some tree stumps for tables and the woodland creatures and my mushroom log dolls sitting all around. What are you looking at?
The result is a snack I don’t feel guilty about when the Preschooler (or I) want more than one. But, for some mystical reason that I can’t explain, two is usually plenty.
Winter Moon Organic Farm of Hadley, MA sells local cornmeal ground on a bicycle-powered mill at the Wayland Winter Farmer’s Market.
¾ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup brandy
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened (1½ sticks)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of one tangerine (or corresponding amount of orange or lemon)
Powdered sugar, for dusting
In a small bowl, soak the dried cranberries in brandy for about an hour or until plump. You can omit the brandy and use apple cider or even water to moisten the cranberries instead. The kids won’t miss it, though I might.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and tangerine zest. Stir in the dry ingredients along with the raisins and any remaining liquid. Cover and chill until firm enough to handle, about an hour.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness somewhere between ¼- and ½-inch. Using a sharp paring knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into diamond shapes and set on cookie sheets. Bake about 15 minutes or until zaleti are lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on rack. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.