On a recent visit, my mum brought me some wonderful souvenirs from her trip to Italy – cookbooks! One of them was a beautiful little book called “Traditional Venetian dessert recipes” (I had no luck finding it on the publisher’s website, so I guess it’s out of print) and these biscuits are my first foray into it. The book is an English language edition, but the translation leaves a lot to be desired so there’s a bit of deciphering required. Being a language lover, though, that appealed to me enormously! I’m looking forward to recreating lots of the biscuits, cakes, desserts and more from this little gem!
These cornmeal-raisin biscuits get their name from the colour imbued by the yellow cornmeal. They remind me of British rock cakes with their crispy exterior but surprisingly light and fluffy interior. Use the finest cornmeal you can find, otherwise they can be a bit gritty, and the wetness of the dough will depend a lot on the fineness of the cornmeal. They taste just beautiful – rich and buttery with a hint of lemon and the occasional burst of sweet raisin.
100g (2/3 cup) raisins or sultanas
250g (1 2/3 cups) superfine yellow cornmeal
250g (2 cups) Type 00 or all-purpose (plain) flour
zest of 1 lemon
4 medium eggs, room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
powdered (confectioners) sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a small bowl, toss the raisins in a few tablespoons of cold water and set aside to soften, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt and lemon zest and set aside.
In another bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Drain and pat the raisins dry with some paper towel.
Add the flour mixture, butter and raisins to the egg mixture and knead together until well combined.
Shape heaping tablespoon sized portions of the dough into slightly flattened biscuits (if the dough is wet, this is easiest done using 2 spoons), about 7cm (2 1/2 – 3″) across, on the baking sheets.
Bake for 20 minutes, swapping the sheets halfway, until browned around the edges.
When done, dust generously with powdered sugar and allow to cool completely.