Upon first reading this recipe for cuccidati (pronouced: coo-chee-dawt-tee), or Italian fig cookies, by Judith Mack, I was immediately drawn to the bold flavors - figs, orange zest, whiskey, cloves. Having never made or tasted the Sicilian (and Italian-American) treat before, I did a quick Google search to see what the end result should look like. What I found was what appeared to be a glorified Fig Newton, topped with glaze and festive sprinkles. I was further intrigued.
A few testing notes: The recipe for the filling makes quite a bit more than you need for one batch of pastry, as is noted by the recipe writer. I went ahead and cut it in half. The instructions for the rolling and filling of the dough were a bit vague for a newcomer to Italian fig cookies like me, but finding an online photo certainly did help in that department. I don’t recommend skipping the chilling of the dough, as the dough can be tacky and might stick when attempting to roll and fill, a lesson I learned the hard way. In fact, I chilled mine for several hours on my second attempt rather than the 30 minutes suggested. I also floured my work surface quite liberally to ensure it didn’t stick the second time. I rolled the dough rather thin, about the same thickness as pie crust. The pastry does have some baking powder and eggs in it, so it will puff up a bit when baked. I went ahead and baked them for the entire 15 minutes and they were nice and golden on the bottom and set on top. I used red, green, and white Christmas sprinkles, which happen to be the same colors as the Italian flag. And I went for the booze in the glaze rather than water, another suggestion made by the recipe writer. The result was a buttery pastry and a complex, chewy filling. All in all, a delightful holiday cookie.
Cuccidati, or Italian Fig Cookies
(Hempire Co. Holiday Recipe Contest finalist for dessert: Judith Mack)
Filling: (this makes enough for 2-3 batches of dough)
1 pound dried figs
1 pound raisins
1 pound walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Juice of two oranges
Rind of one orange
1/4 pound brown sugar
1 3/4 cup whiskey or brandy
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix powdered sugar with a bit of vanilla and water (or Grand Marnier)
Multi-Colored Sprinkles for decoration
Method: For the filling, grind the orange peel in a food processor. Add a small amount of water, dried figs, raisins, walnuts, spices and orange juice and process. Walnuts should be small chunks, not powdery. Put mixture in a saucepan and cook on the stove until it gets sticky. Add brown sugar, Grand Marnier and whiskey. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 20 minutes. Cool before using.
For the pastry, sift all dry ingredients. Cut in butter. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and knead to form a ball. Chill at least 30 minutes.
To assemble, roll out dough into a rectangle. Put a layer of fruit filling near the edge and roll once or twice. Flatten out slightly and cut cookies at an angle (about 3/4 -1 inch wide). Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes on an un-greased cookie sheet. Watch carefully as they burn quickly. Remove and cool on rack.
When cookies are completely cooled, frost with the icing and sprinkle.