Venice is not particularly known for its breakfast, and this mainly because the morning meal seems to be consumed quickly, with a double espresso and a croissant gobbled down fast hot while standing at the bar. Although in the Rialto area the breakfast experience from 10 am on revolves around savoury dishes, I really can't imagine any of my fellow citizens waking up and making something salty. I'm quite sure that sweet is the taste with which most of us Venetians start the day, while words like brunch are a quite recent novelty, a foreign habit I'm happy has been introduced to the city (but, please, never mention words as 'aperitif-cena to me, the only idea gives me the nerves).
While breakfast is often defined as the most important meal of the day and should be based on healthy and nutritive foods, in the not so far past, many working class Venetians would start the day with a slice of toasted polenta dipped into a caffelatte. Not exactly full of vitamins and minerals... Anyway, my father was one of them and he used to hate it (I suppose more for what that specific breakfast represented than for its bland taste). One day, while speaking with dad about how Venice used to be in the past, what has improved and what has worsened, this particular food topic came up and listening to him I felt I had to do something to compensate this tragic memory of his and prepare something yummy and sweet with polenta.
Although in Venice polenta would have traditionally been white (yellow in the countryside), for this particular sweet bread I used polenta taragna, typical of Valtellina (Lombardy, thus another region). I had bought it some time ago and used it for my polenta, artichokes, lemon juice and pistachios recipe, but since then the pack has been comfortably sitting in the cupboard, and when I saw it I thought 'why not?' and employed it. I combined whole wheat flour with polenta flour, brown sugar, turmeric, yeast and lemon zests and then added the liquid mixture (milk, oil). As add-ins I opted for organic canned corn and pumpkin seeds, but I suggest to add chocolate chips too (I had finished them...). If you would like to make it vegan, the best plant based milks to use as a substitutes -in my opinion- are rice milk, for those who enjoy a particularly sweet flavour, and coconut milk, which gives a slightly moister texture.
The result was very nice, a simple breakfast loaf, with that typical homemade taste that in Italy we often describe with the words 'torta della nonna' (granny's cake). Nothing extremely fancy, but rather the comforting everyday sweet -and healthy- treat. Vittorio had it simply sliced and accompanied by yogurt and jam, while I toasted mine and topped it with yogurt and unsweetened cocoa powder. Ideal for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, it's perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Let me know if you like it!
RECIPE: SWEET POLENTA, TURMERIC AND CORN BREAD
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 40'
180 gr whole wheat flour
100 gr polenta taragna flour
10 gr turmeric
16 gr baking powder
110 gr brown sugar
250 gr full fat milk (or coconut milk)
70 ml seed oil
30 gr organic canned corn
pumpkin seeds or other variation of choice
1) Pre-heat oven at 180°
2) Prepare the parchment paper in your loaf tin: grease and with your hands make it adhere to the sides of the tin without creasing the paper.
3) In a bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, polenta flour, turmeric, sugar, baking powder, salt) and stir with a wooden spoon.
4) In a carafe, pour the milk and the oil and mix until well amalgamated.
5) Add the liquid to the dry mixture and stir until well amalgamated. Finally add the previously washed canned corn and the pumpkin seeds, give one last stir and pour into the loaf tin over the previously greased parchment paper.
6) Bake in the oven at 180° for about 40 minutes. When ready, let sit in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool.