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.
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 (Italian Fig Cookies)
Yield: 6 dozen Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 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
- 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)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange extract (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water
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.
Recipe adapted from Italian Fig Cookies on Epicurious.com originally from Gourmet.