Cuccidati – Italian Fig Cookies
These delicious and unique little cookies first came to my attention on a recent visit to see my beloved 93 year-old grandmother in Seattle. With a broad smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes, she handed me a slightly wrinkled piece of paper upon which her shaky hands had carefully scrawled the recipe below. This scenario isn’t entirely uncommon – she often offers me a stack of newspaper or magazine clippings of various recipes on my visits. But she had, to my knowledge, long ago stopped writing by hand due to severe carpal pain. This little piece of paper so lovingly attended to was one of her treasures, and I knew from the small nod of her head as she handed it to me that she really wanted me to give these cookies a try.
Cuccidati are traditionally fig-stuffed cookies originating from Sicily. Often served during the Christmas holidays, the filling may contain a variety of different fruits, spices and nuts (and on occasion, brandy), and may or may not be topped with icing. Fear not the unusual shape of these cookies – although formed into pinwheels rather than stuffed, these Cuccidati retain all the delicious flavor of the Sicilian original!
2 cups raisins
3/4 pound pitted dates
1/3 pound dried figs
2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 small navel oranges, peeled + quartered
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup shortening, softened to room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup 2% milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1. Place all filling ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add to creamed mixture and stir well. Divide dough into two portions, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each dough portion into a rectangle 1/4-inch thick (cutting cookies in step 6 will be easier if dough is rolled into a rectangle with neatly trimmed edges). Evenly spread half of filling mixture over top of one dough rectangle, then roll up like a jelly roll. Repeat with remaining dough rectangle. Cover each log with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
6. Remove chilled dough logs from refrigerator (or freezer). Using a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick cookies. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden.
7. Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.