Venetian Cookies (Zaeti)


Zaeti is Veneto dialect for the Italian gialletti, literally “the little yellow ones”. They are buttery, crumbly polenta (maize or cornmeal) biscuits, plump with raisins and you will spot them in patisseries and bakeries in Venice, Padua and other Veneto towns.

There are many versions, more or less rich, but they all share a charming culinary humbleness, which is one of the key marks of genuine Italian cooking. 

Traditionally diamond-shaped, they can also be baked as rounds. They are rather soft when freshly  baked but they crisp up during the following days, always delicious – they are ideal biscuits for the winter months.


2/3 cup raisins or chocolate chips
2 tablespoons almond liqueur, port wine or Grappa
1 cup cornmeal - Polenta (The finest the better)
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Powder sugar, for sprinkling 1. Combine raisins and almond liqueur in a small bowl. Let soak until fruit is plump, 30 minutes. 2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and egg yolk, lemon zest, and vanilla. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. Add raisins and wet ingredients, gently stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a flat square, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate 45 minutes or up to overnight.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to an 8-inch square, about 1/2 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut dough horizontally into 1-inch strips. Working with one strip at a time, cut crosswise on the bias into 5 equal diamonds (you should make 6 cuts). Reroll scraps once and form additional cookies, if desired. Transfer cookies to two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
4.Lightly beat reserved egg white. Brush tops of cookies with egg white and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until lightly golden around edges, about 22 minutes. Zaeti Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up for a month.