After making these cookies again and again (and in a cooking class) I made a few adjustments and am republishing the recipe. Enjoy and happy baking!
I love creating a bit of Italy in my kitchen and then sharing it with friends and family, especially during the holiday season. It’s a time to be together and hug and remember how much we love each other. Serving these Sicilian Christmas cookies will always make things better!
This December, we made cucidati in a Cooking and Baking class, and well. I must say, they taste better each time I make them. We had lot of fun, and played around with alternative flavorins for the icing. See recipe below!
The little gems are pictured above…. Ah, heaven…. Thank you, Sicily.
Cucidati – Sicilian fig-filled cookies, are a traditional Sicilian Christmas treat that are yummy and festive. They look lovely on a holiday platter and are fun to serve to guests. The name sounds like a children’s game or a pet name when you say it aloud. It is pronounced “kooch-ee-DA-ty” and means “little bracelets.”
When you bite into a cookie, you taste the figs spiced with cinnamon, cocoa and honey and understand the complexities of the Sicilian cuisine with its Arabic influence.
There are many variations and myriad ways to decorate these morsels of goodness. Every Sicilian grandma has her own favorite method for making these cookies, but the basic recipe is a fig-filling covered in a sweet, pastry dough.
This recipe is adapted from La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy. If you love Italian cooking, this is an excellent cookbook to have on hand. A group of industrious folks from Milan wanted to preserve the cultural heritage of Italian cooking, so they started the Italian Academy of Cuisine. They traveled throughout Italy to record the “classic recipes of regional Italian cooking.” This collection is 891 pages and has more than 2000 recipes that were gathered from villages, grandmothers, and farmers and is loaded with iconic and little-known dishes.
Gather grandchildren, cousins, friends to help make these cookies.
- For the dough
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 large egg For the filling
- 1/2 lb almonds
- 1 pound dried figs
- 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- Cookie frosting and sprinkles
DirectionsMake the Dough: With a food processor: In the food processor, add the sugar and butter and pulse a few times to cream them together. Then add the egg and vanilla and pulse a few more times. Next, add the flour one half at a time, pulsing in between. Add the rest of the flour and pulse into a smooth uniform dough is formed. Do not over mix. If the dough is not coming together and is dry, add a teaspoon of water and pulse a few more time. Turn the dough out onto a floured board, knead two times to bring it all together. Form the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Old fashioned, hand-mixed method:
- Dump the flour on a board and make a large well in the center. Make sure the rim of the well is thick enough so the egg stays in the center. Pour the sugar and salt into the well and then add the butter and vanilla. Lastly, crack the egg into the butter. Using your fingers, smoosh together the egg, sugar, vanilla, and butter until well mixed. Little by little, begin incorporating the flour into the center and, still using your fingers, press the flour into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Continue to gather the flour into the mixture until it is all incorporated. Take your time and go gently because it will allow the egg and butter to hydrate the flour, thus making a soft dough. Take your time and gently press, do not knead, until a uniform dough is formed. Again, don’t overwork the dough.
- Divide the dough into 4 even pieces, shape each into a log shape and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- For the filling: Using a food processor, pulse almonds and then figs to form a coarse mixture. In a saucepan, add the processed almonds and figs, then the raisins, honey, and cinnamon and stir until well blended. Turn the burner on low and add the cocoa powder. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a thick paste. Careful to keep the heat on very low. Remove from heat, scoop into a bowl, and let cool.
- To make the cookies: Place one of the pieces of dough on a well-floured board, and roll out to about 13 inches long and 4 inches wide.
- Place a cylinder of filling onto the center of the piece of dough and roll it up like a hot dog in a bun. Seal the edges by spreading a bit of water along the edge and gently pressing the edge of the dough to seal. Brush with egg wash, or If using frosting, wait until after the cookies are baked and cooled.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the dough-covered log into 1-inch pieces. You might need to clean off the knife now and then as some of the filling might stick to the side of the knife.
- Place the Cucidati on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until golden. To make the icing: In a small bowl, add 1 cup powdered sugar. Then a bit at a time, add 2-3 Tablespoons of milk. Whisk until a smooth icing is formed. It should be the consistency of thin pancake batter. Substitutions: Replace one Tablespoon of milk with the liqueur of your choice, for example, Luxardo, Cointreau, or Limoncello. Cucidati will keep in an airtight container for several days. Buon Appetito and Happy Holidays to you and yours! Buon natale!