Cucidati (Italian Fig-filled Cookies)

Cucidati are the traditional Christmas cookies in many Sicilian families. They are generally filled with dried figs, nuts, honey, orange, and cinnamon, but I have seen recipes that include other dried fruit such as dates or plums, and even chocolate, coffee, or rum. Each family has its own method. This is a recipe that I have developed over the years. It is not very traditional in terms of the shape, but is nonetheless fragrant and delicious. I flavor the dough with cinnamon and orange to echo those flavors in the filling. The cookies are soft, very tender, and addictive, my husband’s favorite Christmas cookie. I find the easiest way to prepare the cucidati is in steps over the course of a couple of days. The filling is easy; everything goes in the food processor and is pulsed until it forms a thick filling. I use organic sun-dried unsulfered golden Calimyrna figs for the filling that I buy in 2 lb. packages at Costco. I have tried using the dried fig rings in the past, but I prefer the packaged Calimyrnas because they are plump and moist; perfect for cucidati filling. It is best to chill the filling overnight to allow the flavors to develop before baking. The cookie dough requires chilling as well. I make the dough and form it into three logs, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, and let is sit for a day or two in the refrigerator. Then, when I am ready to bake, I simply slice, fill, and bake. The glaze and sprinkles are optional, but these cookies look pretty with a bit of added color.

Cucidati (Italian Fig-filled Cookies)
2 c. shortening
2 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
6 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the Dough: In a mixer combine shortening and white and brown sugars. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add eggs one at a time. Next add vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl sift together the sifted flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients gradually. Mix well. Form the dough into three logs, each around 12 inches long and 3 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and foil. Let chill several hours, preferably overnight.

Fig Filling
1 c. dark raisins
3/4 c. boiling water
1 c. chopped dried Calimyrna figs
1 c. pecan halves
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. apricot jam (I use homemade)
1/3 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

For the Filling: In a small bowl combine raisins and boiling water. Let raisins sit 5 minutes to rehydrate, then drain off the liquid. Place plump raisins in a food processor bowl. Add dried figs and pecans. Pulse until you get a rough paste. Add honey, jam, orange juice, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt. Pulse until you get a smooth, thick paste. If it seems a bit too stiff add a little more fresh orange juice. Taste and adjust the honey or cinnamon to taste. Place in a container with a tight-fitting lid and chill overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment. Remove cookie dough logs from the refrigerator. Cut a 1/4-inch thick slice, flatten slightly then spoon 1/2-1 tsp. filling into the center. Top with a second slice and press around the edges to seal. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. You should have about 50 cookies. Bake for 8-9 minutes until barely cooked and beginning to get golden and very soft, not firm to the touch. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let cookies cool and firm up for a minute, then transfer from the baking sheet to the rack. Let cool completely, then brush with glaze and sprinkle with non-pareils. Makes 50-60 cookies. They will keep for at least a week in an airtight container. You will have extra filling which you can keep frozen for another use.

Orange Glaze
1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
colored non-pareils for sprinkling

In a bowl combine powdered sugar with orange juice. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in vanilla.


This entry was posted in Christmas, Cookies, Dairy-free, Desserts. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cucidati (Italian Fig-filled Cookies)

  1. Pingback: Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidati II) | Judy's Culinaria

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