These ancient and deliciously crumbly biscuits (meliga meaning mais, or corn, in dialect) are often served in Turin’s piole, the classic trattorie serving traditional dishes. They are offered with a glass of moscato or dolcetto at their simplest, or with a bowl of creamy, freshly whipped Zabaione at the end of the meal. Cavour, a native Piedmontese, is said to have requested at the end of every meal two paste di meliga with a glass of Barolo Chinato, a herby, digestive dessert wine. A real treat.
Recipe excerpted with permission from Tortellini at Midnight by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant March 2019, RRP $35.00 Hardcover. —Emiko
(3 ½ oz/2/3 cup) fine polenta (see Note)
egg, plus 1 egg yolk
(3 ½ oz/2/3 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
(2 ¾ oz) granulated sugar
(4 ½ oz/ ½ cup) unsalted butter, chopped
Combine the polenta, flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the chopped butter and process in an electric mixer or, using your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the lemon zest, egg and yolk and mix until smooth and creamy. The consistency should be thick, but quite wet—enough to put into a piping (icing) bag (even a makeshift one, such as a zip-lock bag). Cut a hole to allow piping the batter in a width of 1 cm (½ in), or use a large enough piping nozzle (this is done with a star-shaped nozzle in Turin’s bakeries). Pipe rings about 5–6 cm (2–2 ½ in) in diameter directly onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the biscuits appear dry on the top and very lightly golden.
If you are not eating them right away, they will store well in a sealed biscuit tin.
NOTE: Look for the finest ground polenta you can get—in Italy you would use a type of polenta called fioretto, which is most often used for baking (it is pale yellow and as fine as flour), rather than the coarser type used for making cooked, soft polenta.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.