Ilove 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!
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.
Here is a video to give you a visual look at each of the steps. Then find the complete recipe below.
Notes to the cook:
Make both the dough and filling an hour or a day before baking. The dough needs to chill and the flavors of the filling will marry and have a richer flavor.
For peeled almonds: Buy almonds that are already peeled or to peel them easily: Blanch almonds in boiling water for 1 minute and then immediately immerse in ice water to prevent further cooking. Rub the almonds together between the palms of your hands to loosen and discard the peels.
Gather grandchildren, cousins, friends to help make these cookies.
Cucidati - from Sicily - makes about 40 cookies
Almond and Fig Filled Christmas Cookies.
- For the dough
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup butter, 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, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 pound dried figs
- 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder – an egg yolk, beaten
- Optional: Cookie frosting and sprinkles
DirectionsMake the Dough: With a food processor: In the food processor, cream together sugar and butter, then pulse in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour and salt. Lastly, add the flour one half at a time, pulsing in between until a smooth dough is formed. Add the rest of the flour. Do not over mix. 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 almonds, figs, 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. Takes just a couple of minutes. Divide into 4 even chunks of filling.
- Place in an airtight container and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (You can chill, too!)
- 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. Then, take one of the chunks of filling and roll it out into a snake that is 12 inches long.
- 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 some beaten egg over the top and add sprinkles if using. 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. Cucidati will keep in an airtight container for several days. Buon Appetito and Happy Holidays to you and yours! Thank you for visiting my blog and for being part of this grand adventure.