Everyone is looking for comfort right now, as well as ways to fill unaccustomed time at home. Baking makes your house smell absolutely safe, warm and inviting. But even after the aromas have dissipated, the delight of eating something delicious that you made lingers on. These Italian Polenta Cookies fit that description perfectly.
Grocery shopping has become challenging in the Time of Coronavirus. Many items are out of stock and getting deliveries scheduled can now take days (if at all) instead of hours. And who knows what will actually arrive when the delivery comes? I admit it. My pantry could probably survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but even I need to buy certain fresh staples like eggs, milk and produce.
In looking for some treat to make for my husband and me (because don’t we all need a little sweetness in our lives?) I came back to this recipe from David Lebovitz that I had seen about 18 months ago. I really love the not-overly-sweet variety of Italian cookies and I especially like cookies made from cornmeal or polenta. They just have this extra somethin’ somethin’. There is the zing of lemon with that slight crunch and flavor of the polenta. These Italian Polenta Cookies are perfect for afternoon tea, with a glass of Vin Santo or a cup of coffee.
Yield: About 3 dozen cookies
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup (90g) dried currant or another dried fruit, such as chopped cranberries or cherries
3 tablespoons eau-de-vie or grappa (I used Amaretto since I had neither grappa nor eau-de-vie)
1 3/4 cups (250g) flour
1 cup (160g) fine (or instant) polenta
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
8 tablespoons (4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Heat the water in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add the currants, or other dried fruit, and liqueur. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (They can be plumped a day or two in advance.)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and baking powder. (You can also make this dough in a large bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.)
In a medium bowl, mix together the egg and the egg yolks, then stir in the melted butter and lemon zest.
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir together for about a minute, until they’re well-combined. Add the currants and any liquid, and beat them in at medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Remove the dough from the bowl, wrap it in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill until firm, about an hour. (The dough can be made 2-3 days in advance, and baked later.)
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
On a lightly floured counter top, pinch off tablespoon-sized pieces of dough, roll them into little logs (you may need to flour your hands as the dough can be slightly sticky), then press the logs gently to flatten them a bit, and pinch the ends to taper them. Place them on the baking sheet about an inch (3cm) apart, to allow for some spreading. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.
Bake the cookies until golden brown across the top, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during baking. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack.
Storage: The cookies can be kept up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature.