a promise kept

I've got to say, it feels a bit strange to be sitting here. Staring at the computer screen, typing in Blogger. Blogging has been very far from my mind lately, and yet I've missed this space so much! But my very non-virtual life has been demanding 110% of my attention lately, and blogging has had to take a backseat to all the activity swirling around me.

Josh's new restaurant will be opening soon. I am only halfway done with the dessert menu. I have yet to step inside the kitchen and set up the gluten-free pastry workstation. I need to sit down with the Bar Manager to discuss ways to use his herbal infusions in the pastry kitchen. And I'm a bit behind due to a massive 10-day halt to our life to deal with three of us coming down with a violent stomach bug. Ugh. It will all get done, though, and it will all be fabulous. I'm sure of it.

But not today. Today I am not working. Today is the day we are finally celebrating Kalen's birthday with friends and family! It is also the last night that Josh's soon-to-be former restaurant, Brevetto, will be serving dinner, and a large group of us are going over there for one last meal. Today is a day for celebrating, for reminiscing, and for looking ahead to the bright future.

But I had to drop by this space for just a moment. You see, a couple of days ago I made a promise on Facebook, and I think it's time I kept it. I will probably not be posting here the recipes for all the desserts I develop for 40 Paper; this space is not about high-end restaurant baking. But there is one menu item that is so easy, and absolutely delicious, that it definitely deserves a spot here. YOU deserve it.

Fried zaleti. A bit obscure, zaleti are a traditional pastry from the Veneto region of Italy, and are usually a cornmeal-based cookie/biscuit type of sweet. Lemon zest and Grappa-soaked raisins add punch, and the cookies are dusted with confectioner's sugar when they come out of the oven. They're a nice afternoon snack, but not exactly an appropriate way to end dinner in an Italian restaurant. But I really wanted cornmeal to have a place on the dessert menu, and didn't want to have to fall back on the polenta cakes that are so popular right now.

Enter the fryer. As soon as it occurred to me to fry the batter, I knew the recipe was going to be a keeper. Not just because frying makes food taste so good, but because of the textural contrast that was formed between the crisp, crunchy outside and soft, moist interior. The cookies were now dessert. I made a few more tweaks to the recipe, added a chocolate dipping sauce, and it was finished. My first menu item for my first real job in years. It felt good.

You'll have to imagine currants scattered throughout the zaleti - the photos were taken before I added them to the recipe!

These zaleti are a perfect, not-too-sweet way to end a special meal. They're small and easy to share, and they taste great straight from the fryer or left to cool to room temperature. Any chocolate sauce, store-bought or homemade, will make them seem just sophisticated enough to be grown-up fare. Pair them with an espresso, or a snifter of the same Cognac you use in the batter, and wind your way into the gentle, indulgent hours of a mid-winter night.

Fried Zaleti
yields about 20 zaleti, depending on the size of your scoop

2 Tbsp dried currants
1 Tbsp good-quality Cognac
1 Tbsp hot water
1/4 fluid cup (2oz) whole milk
25 grams unsalted butter
88 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp) cornmeal
70 grams (1/2 cup) Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
55 grams (4 1/2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
zest of half a lemon
pinch fine sea salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

canola oil, for frying
confectioner's sugar, for dusting
chocolate sauce, for dipping

Place the currants, Cognac and hot water in a small bowl and allow to soak until the currants are softened.

In a small saucepan (or microwave-safe glass measuring cup), heat the milk over medium-low heat (or in the microwave) until warm, then remove from heat, add the butter, and swirl it around in the pan to fully melt it. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, pastry flour, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, lemon zest, and sea salt. Add the milk-butter mixture and the beaten egg, and mix until a smooth batter forms. Stir in the soaked currants and their soaking liquid.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 3" of canola oil to 350ºF. (A candy thermometer comes in handy for this.) Fry the batter in tablespoon-sized scoops, four or five at a time, until dark golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and toss in confectioner's sugar to coat.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with chocolate sauce for dipping.


  1. I don't think I have ever tried zaleti yet. I know there are similar fried dough pastries but this one is just so mouth-watering.

    P.S. Cute little boys!

  2. OMG yum. I can't wait to try this.... I love fried doughs of all kinds and miss them. Thank you for posting this. :)

  3. Kathy - Try them, I think you'll love them. The cornmeal and liquor-soaked currants make them unlike any other fried dough pastry that I've had!

    Anonymous - Thank you! I, too, love all fried doughs. ;)

  4. MMMMMMMMMMM,..So your husband is opening a restaurant? that's awesome! Good luck with it all!

    Too bad it is in the USA otherwise I would come to dine & wine!

    These gf zaleti look tremendously tasty!! MMMM,..good job!

  5. Sophie - Thanks! It's actually Josh's second restaurant, which means we feel like we've got a better idea of what we're doing. Still lots of work, though, so thanks for the good luck wishes! If you ever find yourself in Maine, stop in!

  6. Ummm, delicious!. Fantastic blog.
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  7. Oh, wow, these do sound like the perfect way to end a meal--a little decadent (fried), just a little chocolate (but not so much that you feel ill). As I get older, this is the type of dessert I gravitate toward...small, bite sized sweets. I wonder if it would be possible to make these at home and bake them, instead of frying?

  8. Katie - Thanks! They're just the kind of dessert I wish more places had on their menu. And yes, you can definitely bake them, although when I tried them that way they seemed more like mini muffins to me. (They had a tender, uniform consistency, plus there was the fact that I baked them in a mini muffin tin!) Still good, though!

  9. Tara I love this dessert, It seems so perfect for ending a meal. I love your blog!... good luck on your second restaurant. kisses from argentina

  10. Baking Colours - Thank you so much! The restaurant is coming right along - opening in a few days!

  11. I was searching for something gfree to bring to a ladies chocolate fondue night and not only did I find it but I also found your blog! Thank you so much - this is just the gfree perspective I have been looking for! I think you will be a huge blessing to my family and my baking!
    I was wondering since I have neither currants nor cognac on hand, what is your suggestion for the 2 TBS liquid substitution? I guess I could sub raisins for the currants, but I'm not sure my limited liquor cabinet would have something appropriate...I kinda like them simple, anyway!

  12. Julie - Hello! I'm so glad you found me! As for the zaleti, raisins are a great substitute for the currants, but since they're larger, you'll either need to use an extra tablespoon of them, or be okay with them being distributed more sparsely in the batter. And for the alcohol, any flavor liquor that you like (and already have on hand!) would work, or you could skip the alcohol altogether and use a combination of vanilla extract and hot water - I'd use about 1 tsp vanilla and 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp hot water. Have a great fondue night!

  13. These look so delicious! And this is a wonderful blog.

  14. LouizaBee - Thank you very much!

  15. i found so mmany interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post!
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