Every year in October, the tiny medieval village of Arquà Petrarca, in the Euganean Hills of Veneto, hosts a picturesque, popular festival dedicated to the humble jujube. During the festival (but really throughout the whole year), you can find all sorts of jujube-based gastronomic delights, from brodo di giuggiole (a sweet liqueur obtained by macerating the fruits in an alcohol and sugar); to cakes, candies and cookies.
In my family, nothing has ever been done with the host of jujubes from our shrub. We’ve always just eaten them al naturale, munching on them straight from the fruit bowl. This year, though, the production was more abundant than usual, demanding for some culinary inventiveness to sort out any excess. The most natural thing to do, at that point, was to fire off the oven and get ready to bake.
The base for these biscuits is a quintessentially Venetian combination, not dissimilar to the widely-known zaleti (the recipe for which is in my cookbook), but with bits of jujubes instead of raisins. Traditionally, the fruits are marinated in grappa before being folded into the cookie dough, but you can also use other liqueurs or nothing at all. And if jujubes aren’t easy to find where you live (or they are not in season), you can always swap them for plump sultanas or raisins or other dried fruits of your liking.
Jujube Polenta Cookies
3 egg yolks
150 g caster sugar
Soak the bits of jujube in the grappa for at least a couple of hours or, ideally, overnight. Close to making the cookies, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a cookie tray with parchment and set aside.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and airy, or until the sugar has dissolved. Add the melted butter to the flour mix, then pour in the egg mixture, too. Stir to combine, then add in the drain jujubes and stir again to incorporate.
To shape the cookies, grab a knob of dough and roll it between your hands. Give it a slightly elliptical, flat shape, then ease it on the lined tray. Repeat until you finished the dough, leaving some space between each cookie. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until deeply golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cookie rack.
Venetians would serve these crumbly cookies with some sweet Moscato as a dessert.
*You can swap these with raisins or chopped soft dates