(Yeah, those are Christmas sprinkles. I was too lazy to go get regular nonpareils!!)
These are my ultimate childhood memory. I love these cookies more than words can say, and I heavily depended on one bakery to give me these cookies 364 days/year. The other day, March 19, I could depend on a St. Joseph’s altar for these tasty treats. My dad is half Sicilian, so of course, he got me stuck on italian cookies early on.
I decided around Christmas to look up this recipe, because I wanted a challenge in baking. If it didn’t work out, I still had my trusty Italian bakery. If it did, though, there would definitely be a mini-baking victory in order! Let’s just say there’s a mini-baking victory in order! These cookies came out JUST like the ones I know to love!
source: Gourmet through Epicurious
- 1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
- 3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
- 3/4 cup mild honey
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (used Meyer Lemon zest)
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (for next time, this will be omitted.)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
**For the nuts, I toasted and food processed them into a powder, since I never noticed nuts in cuccidati filling before.**
For pastry dough
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest
(didn’t use this for the recipe. The cuccidati that I’ve eaten have only had nonpareils on them.)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- Garnish: multicolored nonpareils*
Pulse figs and raisins (and nuts) in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours.
Look at those pretty dried figs.
Fig filling. Mmm…
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Trim to a 13- by 10-inch rectangle (chill trimmings), then cut into 4 (10- by 3 1/4-inch) strips. Arrange 1/3 cup filling in a 1-inch-wide log lengthwise down center of each strip, then fold sides of each strip up over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams. Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets. Make more cookies in same manner with remaining chilled dough, trimmings (reroll once), and filling.
**Just a note. This dough becomes very sticky when room temperature. So roll this dough out as quickly as possible. I did this between wax paper sheets, flipping the dough often. **
Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.
Make icing while first batch of cookies bake:
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing.
Brush icing on warm cookies and decorate with nonpareils (if using), then cool completely.
• Filling can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.
• Dough can be chilled, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, up to 3 days.
• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.