As each holiday approaches, I look forward to baking my favorite recipes of the season. Being Italian, this means ricotta pie and a variety of special Italian cookies near and dear to my heart for Easter. I’m not just Italian—I’m half Sicilian although, truth be told, if you are part Sicilian, that part rules!
Last Christmas, I was fortunate enough to try a homemade cucidati and obtain the recipe. The hair salon I frequent has a pot luck put on by the employees there every year on the Saturday before Christmas. I happened to be there that day, and I immediately scoped out the goodies—as always looking for a good homemade treat. I immediately noticed that someone had made cucidati; and, once I had taken my first bite, I set out to find who had made them. Gino, one of the hairdressers, was the baker; and he kindly wrote out the recipe for me.
I have eaten my share of cucidati through the years but had never gotten around to making this delicious Sicilian fig cookie. Now that I had a good recipe in hand, it was time to change that. If you’ve never had a cucidati, think of it as an Italian Fig Newton—only infinitely better. The filling is a ground mixture of figs, dates, raisins and nuts. Recipes tend to vary from there as to whether orange marmalade and/or honey are added along with cinnamon or brandy or citrus rind. Once the cookies are baked, you coat them in a confectioners’ sugar icing and then shake colored sprinkles over them. Since these cookies are labor-intensive, it was wonderful to have a tried and true recipe in hand and not have to worry after a lot of effort whether it was worth making them. It absolutely was!
One year ago: Palmer House Brownies
Cucidati – Sicilian Fig Cookies
Ingredients for Filling
- 8 oz. raisins
- 8 oz. dates
- 8 oz. figs
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 2 to 4 tbl. Brandy (I used 2 tbl.)
Ingredients for Dough
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2” pieces
- 1/2 cup Crisco
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup orange juice
Ingredients for Icing
- 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar
- 4 to 6 tbl. Milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
Directions for Filling
Grind raisins, date, figs, and nuts together; mix in orange marmalade and brandy.
Directions for Dough
Add flour, salt and baking powder to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add butter and Crisco and cut in with pastry blender (or two knives) until evenly distributed and mixture resembles coarse meal.
Beat egg with orange juice and pour over dry ingredients in bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix and incorporate all ingredients until dough comes together. If dough is too sticky, you may need to add another tablespoon or two until you can handle it without it sticking to your hands. Texture should be soft but not sticky.
Prepare cookie sheets by placing parchment over them. If you have a 30” oven and large cookie sheets, you should be able to fit 3 rolls on each sheet and would only need two.
Divide dough into six equal pieces. I used my kitchen scale and got six pieces each weighing approximately 4 1/2 ounces. Dust your rolling surface with flour, and roll out each piece of dough into a rectangle approximately 3” x 12”.
Divide the fig filling into six equal portions. When I used my kitchen scale, each portion weighed approximately 4 1/2 ounces, same as for the dough. Using your hands, form a long roll of the fig mixture and place in the middle of the dough rectangle, leaving a 1/2″ border at the two short ends.
Bring the long sides of the dough up over the filling and pinch together to seal. Pinch the short ends together to seal as well.
Place on rack until cooled.
Directions for Icing
Stir icing ingredients together and ice cookies before slicing. Shake colored sprinkles over the top to decorate if desired.
Cut into any length you want. I sliced mine into 1 1/2″ pieces.