If you have never tasted meliga pastries, you don't know what you have missed!
Meliga pastries, in fact, are the best cookies in the universe (IMHO) … they have Piedmontese origins (they are particularly typical in the area of Mondovi, but they are also produced in other parts of the region) and the key ingredient of these cookies is the meliga or melia, ie, in Piedmontese dialect, corn. In fact they are largely composed of corn flour, ground more than the corn flour used to prepare polenta.
These cookies are similar in their composition to simple shortbread, but I think they have the proverbial extra gear, 'cause of this yellow flour, which makes these pastries crunchier and with a very particular taste… you have to try them.
They are perfect for tea time, 'cause their taste is so simple but yet different from usual cookies, 'cause they are crunchy, also when soaked, simply because they are divine. The combination of meliga pastries and a good hot tea (but the tradition suggests to serve them with wine, sweet or not, or with eggnog – but maybe is best to avoid eggnog in this hot season) is so good that I always hope in the arrival of tea time, even if it's only about 8 AM.
So, when I found, during a trip to the Piedmontese Langhe, a package of otto file (aka eight rows) corn flour (this is an old Piedmontese type of corn, forgotten in the past, but now increasingly rediscovered by growers) finely stone-ground (perfect for my beloved pastries), I just couldn't resist, and now I'm here to describe the perfect tea time.
In the representation, partly photographic and partly illustrated, you could see my personal perfection for 5 PM. In the top left-hand corner you could see the meliga pastries, which I made not according to the traditional shape, but according to my taste; in the bottom left-hand corner you could see my favorite teapot, coming directly from Hong Kong (sooner or later you will also see it in a photo, but for now I treasure it for my own personal tea ritual), while to the right you could see my favorite tea, a fragrant and intense Whittard tea, coming straight from Manchester (both are gifts from friends traveling around the world … I have some pretty good friends, with gifts like these -but also without the gifts).
But, coming to the point, here it is my recipe for some nice and fragrant meliga pastries.
Ingredients (about 40 cookies)
* 260 g finely ground corn flour (for me "otto file" flour)
* 140 g all-purpose flour
* 200 g softened unsalted butter
* 180 g sugar
* a pinch of salt
* 4 egg yolks
* grated rind of a lemon
Mix the two flours and arrange them on a work surface. Add sugar, a pinch of salt and mix; then add the butter cut into little pieces, the egg yolks and lemon rind. Knead until you have a smooth, compact ball of dough: put it, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
After this time, preheat the oven to 356°F (180°C) and remove the dough from the refrigerator.
Roll out the dough to a thickness of about half a centimeter and cut your cookies depending on the desired shapes (simply round or as you prefer); put your cookies on a nonstick baking pan (or a regular pan covered with parchment paper) and bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden (but not too brown).
Let them cool completely and then taste them … are they divine or not?!