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These Cucidati are traditional Sicilian celebration cookies. Holidays, Weddings, Births, Baptisms, and yes even after a funeral. These cookies appear as if by magic and disappear in the same way! A lot like a Fig Newton but this ain’t your mama’s store bought cookie. And even if you’re a fig newton hater, you’ll love these!
During the holidays my grandmother and her sisters and cousins would gather at a particular house and prepare cookies for their families. That chosen kitchen smelled like heaven and at the end of the baking there were enough cookies for it seemed like the world. Each lady left with enough cookies for her family and friends and even a gift or two. (If you had been the mailman on my granny’s route, you lived for the day the cookies were delivered to the mailbox!)
In those days, prior to food processors, the men got into the act grinding the fig mixture and cracking and chopping pecans, then they were asked to help mix the fig mixture at bit as it was quite a stiff mixture and arm strength was mandatory. Now with food processors its a bit easier but its fun to make this a family project!
Cucidata (Italian Fig Cookies)
- 4 cups Gold Medal™ Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups dried figs soaked in water
- 2 cups dried dates pitted
- 1 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- zest and peel from 3 medium oranges or 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 2/3 cup pecans coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp each allspice cloves, nutmeg
- 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
- 2 lb confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 stick 1/4 cup Real Butter (melted)
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- assorted food coloring
- multi-colored sprinkles
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir well.
- Cut in the shortening with a fork and work the mixture until it looks like corn meal. In a bowl, beat the egg, vanilla, and milk together.
- Add to the flour mixture and work the mixture with your hands into a rough dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be soft.
- Cut the dough into 4 pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and chill for 45 minutes.
- Bring the water and allspice, nutmeg and cloves to a slow boil, reduce heat to low and cover.
- To make the filling, grind the figs, dates, and raisins in a meat grinder or in a food processor until coarse; or coarsely chop.
- Place the mixture in a bowl, add the honey, cinnamon, marmalade, chocolate and nuts and mix well. Add the spice brew and mix well.The mixture will be thick. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
- Divide the dough into quarters and work with 1 piece of dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered.
- On a floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a 12-inch square.
- Cut the dough into 4-X-3-inch rectangles,and spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the center of each rectangle.
- Carefully fold over the long edges of each rectangle to meet in the center, then pinch the seam to close it securely, and turn the cookie seam side down.
- Pinch the ends closed and fold the ends under.
- You can shape the cookies into crescents and place seam side down on the cookie sheets.Or make wreath shapes (at Christmas) or just cut into thumb lengths.
- Make 2 or 3 diagonal slits in the top of each crescent with scissors.
- Brush with the egg wash
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
- Once cooled you can frost if you like with the confectioner sugar glaze and add colored sprinkles.
- In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.
- Beat in butter and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy.
- Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity.
- Spoon over cookies, or paint them with a brush.
Now mind you, over the years I’ve changed things a bit, added and taken away, to suit our own tastes but these things…….. Mama Mia, that’s good!