Cucidati – Italian Fig Cookies

How was everyone’s New Year’s?

I hope you’ll indulge one more Christmas cookie recipe.  Cucidati is a Sicilian cookie that I’ve only had once or twice.  I’ve also seen these called Italian Fig Cookies or Buccellati.  This cookie isn’t one of our traditions but it’s definitely worthy of anyone’s traditions or any special occasion.  My friend Chris makes these every year for her family and she advised that the recipe is from Gourmet and can be found on Epicurius.com.

Cucidati or Italian Fig Cookies | Bakewell Junction

Cucidati or Italian Fig Cookies | Bakewell Junction

I made these for my cousin’s Christmas party and they were a big hit.  I made some substitutions to suit our tastes better and to use what I had on hand.  Since I didn’t have a food processor I had to use my mini chopper which was an attachment of my immersion blender.  When I tried to chop the dried figs in the mini chopper, the clutch piece broke.  Then I cut the dried figs in small pieces by hand and tried to chop them with the immersion blender attachment but a bunch of the pieces went flying all over, some landing in my hair.  So I discarded the pieces that flew out of the bowl and soaked the rest of them in brandy to soften them a little bit.  After a while the fig pieces softened enough to chop them with the immersion blender attachment (I covered the top of the bowl so no more of them escaped during chopping).  That worked, for the most part, until the motor burnt out but by that time the figs were chopped well enough.  I’ve included instructions to soften the dried figs before chopping them, so the same thing doesn’t happen to you and it’s best if you use a food processor or blender to chop the figs.

I even considered buying fig paste for these cookies instead of chopping the figs myself.  I looked online and once I saw that there was a standard for bug pieces in the paste – one even said the number of bug heads that were acceptable (eeew!) – I decided I needed to get a food processor.

These take a little time but they’re so totally worth it.

Cucidati or Italian Fig Cookies | Bakewell JunctionEnjoy!

Cucidati (Italian Fig Cookies)

Yield:  6 dozen                 Cook Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 1 cup (packed) soft dried Mission figs (8 ounces), hard tips discarded (I substituted Kalamata dried figs)
  • 3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/2 cup brandy, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest (I substituted dried orange peel)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (I substituted 2 teaspoons dried orange peel)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) blanched, slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 6 fun size Hershey chocolate bars broken into individual pips (individual rectangle of Hershey Chocolate), optional

Dough:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest (I substituted dried orange peel)

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange extract (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
  • Nonpareils

Step 1:  For the filling:  To soften the figs, cut them into evenly sized pieces (about 1/8th’s of each fig).  Add the cut figs to a small sauce pan.  Cover figs with 1/4 cup brandy and set aside for an hour.  Transfer the small sauce pan to the cook-top, heat on low for a few minutes to heat through, stirring occasionally.  Remove figs from heat and cover for a half hour or until the figs have become much softer.  Let the mixture cool to about room temperature.

Step 2:  Add figs and raisins to a food processor, chop finely.  Transfer fig mixture to a medium bowl and mix well with the remaining ingredients.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Step 3:  Dough:  In a large bowl combine the first four ingredients.  Add cold butter and cut butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or pulse in the food processor until the mix looks like coarse meal.  Stir in the remaining ingredients until a dough forms.  Halve the dough and create two balls.  Shape each into a 4 by 6 inch rectangle.  Wrap each piece of dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Step 4:  Assembly:  Remove one dough and place on a clean, well floured work area.  Flour your rolling pin.  Roll into a 14 by 15 inch rectangle.  Trim dough to 10 by 13 inches.  Return trimmings to the refrigerator.  Cut the dough along the 13 inch side into 4 equal 10 inch strips (3 1/4 inches wide).  Divide the filling into 9 equal portions (1/3 cup each).  Form each of the first 4 filling portions into 1 by 10 inch logs in the center of each dough strip.  Using a bench scraper to lift the edges of each dough strip to wrap around the filling and pinch at the top to completely seal.  Flour a knife and cut each roll into 8 equal pieces (1 1/4 inch wide rolls).  Transfer rolls, seam side down (1/2 inch apart) to a parchment lined baking sheet and press to flattened pinched seam.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes until beginning to turn lightly golden on the edges.  Repeat for remaining dough rectangle.  Roll trimmings to create one more 10 by 3 1/4 inch strip and repeat.  After the filling is finished, roll remaining dough scraps, cut into similar pieces and fill each with a Hershey’s chocolate pip and fold dough over into little pillows.  Bake as other cookies.  Cool all cookies for 10 minutes.

Step 5:  Icing:  Mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, orange extract and enough water to make a loose frosting.  Paint the tops of the cookies with icing and sprinkle with nonpareils.  Cool completely.

Tips:  Filling can be made a week ahead of time.  Dough can be made three days ahead of time.  Store cooled cookies at room temperature in a sealed plastic container for a week or more until ready to serve.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe adapted from Italian Fig Cookies on Epicurious.com originally from Gourmet.

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Irish Soda Bread 2

Saint Patrick’s day has come and gone.  Spring has sprung early this year and my Crocus have bloomed already.

Back to the Irish Soda Bread…

I baked another version of Irish Soda Bread.  This version isn’t like the one I remember but it’s quite tasty.  My taste testers have classified it as delicious.  This one bakes up like a cake.  I got the recipe from an Irish co-worker and then modified it.

After mixing together the ingredients, the mixture looks like this.

Ready for the oven.

Hot out of the oven.

Irish Soda Bread

Yield:  2 loaves                Cook Time:  30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cups raisins, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained well
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, well beaten

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously butter 2 9-inch round cake pans or pie pans.  Alternately, you can use cooking spray instead of butter.

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together.  Add the butter, well beaten egg, sour cream, milk and raisins to the flour mixture.  Place in the pans.  It’s traditional to cut a cross in the top of the bread before baking but this version is too soft for that.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Cool in the pans for 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe adapted from a co-worker’s recipe.  The original recipe follows, if you’d like to try that version.

Irish Soda Bread – Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 cups raisins, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained well
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Generously butter 1 9-inch round cake pan or pie pan.  Alternately, you can use cooking spray instead of butter.

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together.  Add the butter, well beaten egg, sour cream, milk, raisins and caraway seeds to the flour mixture.  Place in the pans.  It’s traditional to cut a cross in the top of the bread before baking.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Irish Soda Bread 1

Saint Patrick’s day is in a few days and although I’m not Irish I have a penchant for Irish Soda Bread.  During my undergraduate years I worked at a sales rep company and while that information is unimportant, what is important is that I had a co-worker whose last name was Sullivan and his mother made tons of Irish Soda Bread and sent it to him.  Since he couldn’t eat it all, he brought most of them to us at work.  I’ve never had Irish Soda Bread that was as good or with the same texture.  It’s hard to explain because the bread was sweeter than any other recipe I’ve had and it wasn’t as dry or as brown.  It was sort of like a scone.  Unfortunately I never asked for the recipe and I’ve been looking for something similar since but I’ve never found it.

This recipe is quite tasty and moist; sort of like a quick bread.  I’ve modified the original recipe to my tastes.  I normally send a couple of loaves to a friend that I don’t get to see too often and she loves it.  She freezes it so she can have some whenever she likes.  I hope you enjoy this recipe too.

After stirring together the dry ingredients and cutting in the butter and mixing very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy, the mixture looks like this.

After mixing is competed.

Ready for the oven.

Hot out of the oven.  Ready, set, eat.

Irish Soda Bread

Yield:  2 or 3 loaves                Cook Time:  50 – 60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk or substitute 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice to 2 ½ cups milk, stir and wait 10 to 15 minutes
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter 2 9 x 5 inch pans or 3 8 x 4 inch pans.  Alternatively you can use cooking spray.

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender at first and then mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy.  Stir in raisins.

Add the buttermilk and egg to the flour mixture.  Stir until well moistened.  Pour mixture into 2 or 3 loaf pans.

Bake for to 50 – 60 minutes.  Test with a toothpick for doneness.  Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe adapted from www.foodnetwork.com, courtesy of Brother Rick Curry, The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, HaperPerennial, 1995.