The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cuccidati for Christmas!

Homemade cuccidati!
I remember having a huge pink bakery box of Italian Christmas cookies at my grandma's house every year.  Being allergic to nuts, I couldn't eat many of those cookies, but I remember how good they looked and how everyone enjoyed them.  I've been making more of an effort to research Italian and Sicilian traditions, especially holiday and food traditions, and re-create them.  This year, it was Sicilian Spiced Fig Cookies, or Cuccidati.  Instead of the traditional filling of spices, dried fruit and nuts, I left out the nuts and made a cookie that I could eat!  Here is the recipe that I used:

Nut-free Sicilian Cuccidati: 
5 ½ cups flour, plus extra for rolling
1 Tablespoon, plus 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ cup sugar
8 oz. shortening or lard, or cold butter (2 sticks)
3 eggs
½ cup milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

16 oz. dried figs
8 oz raisins
8 oz. dates
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
zest and juice of 1 orange
honey to taste
hot water

Powdered sugar
Vanilla or other flavoring
Multicolored round sprinkles

If possible, make these cookies 3 days before you plan to serve them; it helps to do the prep work over a few days.  Cut stems from figs and cut in half.  Place in a bowl and cover with boiling hot water; add the raisins and dates to the bowl if they’re dry and hard.  Let stand at least 20 minutes to soften.  Drain the fruit, then pulse it in a food chopper or processor to grind finely.  Add other filling ingredients and combine, adding just enough honey to make the filling spreadable, but not runny.  Transfer to another bowl, cover, and let sit at least 24 hours in fridge or on the counter.

Sift 5 ½ cups flour with baking soda into a large bowl, then add sugar and stir to combine.  Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles crumbly sand.  Beat the eggs, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl, make a well in the flour mixture and pour egg mixture in.  Mix well, then turn out onto a floured board and knead until the dough comes together, adding just enough flour to make the dough not stick to your hands.  Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes or so to improve dough texture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove dough and filling from the fridge and let come to room temperature, then take a large handful of dough, and roll it out on a floured board to ¼ inch thick or a little thinner.  Use a knife or ravioli cutter to trim the dough into a rectangle, and then cut the rectangle into about 2 to 3-inch wide strips.  Spread a line of filling along one edge of each strip of dough, then roll the dough over the filling to make a tube.  Roll the tube gently under your palms to smooth out the seam where the two edges of the strip overlap, and then cut the tube into 3-inch long cookies.  Cut 3 slits into one side of each cookie and bend the cookie into a curve or horse-shoe shape with the slits on the outside.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly golden on the bottom, then cool completely on a wire rack or on towels spread on the kitchen table.  Let sit at least 24 hours before icing them.  When cold, drizzle the cookies with icing and decorate with sprinkles.  Can be stored in a cookie tin between layers of waxed paper.

Icing: put 2 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl and whisk in ½ cup of milk until sugar dissolves.  Add more sugar or more milk to adjust the texture to a thick icing that can be drizzled from a spoon, and whisk well.  Whisk in a teaspoon of vanilla or other flavoring like lemon, anise or almond, and drizzle over the cookies.  Makes about 6 dozen cuccidati. 
-- sources;, Alisa DeMarco’s, etc.

They turned out tasty, but I will be tweaking the recipe because they could be better. The cookie dough is too soft and fluffy, I think, and has too much baking powder.  The spice level in the filling also needs to be higher.  I will be experimenting (with a scaled-down recipe) to find my favorite cuccidati recipe ...


Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

OMG these look and sound Heavenly!!! Thank you SO MUCH for the recipe... It is so special to have so many lovely ladies contributing to our love of baking and decorating... Happy New Year to you and yours,
Hugs, Donna

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

You're welcome, Donna! Happy New Year, and happy baking!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)