All over northern Italy we have plenty of corn consequently, besides polenta, in Piedmont we also make traditional cookies with cornmeal, or in Italian, paste di meliga :P
|delish tea flavored cornmeal cookies made by Tastinglife|
This is another very simple and easy recipe born out of a bad wheat harvest way back in the time. As the wheat flour price went up, bakers started mixing it with the finest cornmeal, the kind that couldn't be used to make polenta. Such fine cornmeal in fact is ideal for cookies and cakes, as they get a distinct flavor and texture.
Today, you can find cornmeal cookies everywhere in Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta because these are typical Alpine foods made with the most genuine mountain ingredients. Of course, there are also industrial cornmeal cookies.
In Piedmont, they were born in the Olympic Games valleys: Val di Susa, Val Chisone and Val Cenischia, on the far west side of Piedmont, near France and in the Biella area - the cashmere hub of Europe and where Ermenegildo Zegna is from.
In some villages, people traditionally baked and offered these cookies at the christening parties and in some others, they carry the name of the village itself; however, the recipe is always the same.
The recipe and the procedure are extremely easy so you can easily make them at home too. When you buy them they are usually round or rectangular, with ridges made with a pastry bag. In Piedmont, people normally have them for breakfast and for the afternoon snack with coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Because the industrial production put at risk the original recipe and texture, the cookie production in Mondovi' (Cuneo area) created a Slow Food consortium to preserve these traditional cornmeal cookies and their cultural value.
|a box of industrial cornmeal cookies|
- 125gr /1/2 cup of very fine cornmeal flour
- 250gr / 1 cup of cake white flour (wheat)
- 125gr / 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 250 gr/ 17.5 tbsp (2 sticks + 1.5 tbsp) of softened butter
- 1 lemon finely grated zest
- a pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla pod
Sift the very fine cornmeal flour and the white flour together in a bowl. Add one pinch of salt, half of the vanilla beans and the sugar.
With a wooden spoon mix the dry ingredients and add the softened butter cut into small cubes. After combining the butter, add the lemon zest and keep mixing with your hands or the wooden spoon.
Add the egg and the egg yolk and keep mixing till getting a smooth and creamy dough.
Put the dough into a pastry bag with the star-shaped tip (3/8 '').
Preheat the oven at 180C/356F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
With the pastry bag, draw 2'' doughnut size cookies at about 2'' a part.
Bake for 15/18 minutes until they look golden.
When cool, you can keep them in a tin box or under a cake glass bell for up to 4-5 days.
|in Turin you are normally served cornmeal cookies with your hot chocolate|
Legend has it that Count Cavour, the very first Italian PM loved these cornmeal cookies and used to end every meal, dunking two into a small glass of Barolo Chinato - an after dinner digestive liquor, made by steeping the cinchona tree bark into Barolo wine and then adding a mix of spices.
Traditionally they are served with zabajone sauce, an egg custard with Marsala wine. Follow our friend, chef Silvia Baldini's recipe for Moscato zabajone here.
Wine lovers will enjoy dunking them into a raisinated wine like Passito di Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG and a dessert wine like Moscato.
Even though it is dry, Alta Langa Spumante Rosato or Alta Langa Rose' foamy wine is also a good match because of its royal vanilla hues.
When you travel to the Monferrato wine district, in the Asti and Alessandria hamlets, look for Monferrato Chiaretto a rose' DOC wine, another delish wine to pair with these cookies ;)
Finally, if you are in Piedmont at the end of September, you just can't miss the cornmeal cookie day or Meliga Day the festival that takes place in Sant'Ambrogio di Torino on the very last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Septmber.
So many good reasons to enjoy these cookies and pick your favorite wine pairing right here in Piedmont!