Although fig bars are standard American fare, fig-filled cookies are also very traditional in Sicily, where they are called cucidati. I’ve decided to merge the two and make a fig bar that is shaped like the industrially-made one, but has some typical Sicilian seasonings in it for extra flavor.
Makes about 30 cookies
1 1/2 pounds dried Calimyrna figs
1 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Two cookie sheets or jellyroll pans lined with parchment or foil
- To make the filling, use kitchen scissors to snip the stems from the figs (they are very sharp and hard), and snip each fig into 5 or 6 pieces. In a large saucepan combine the figs, water, apricot preserves, rum, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir to mix well.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, then decrease the heat to low and allow the filling to simmer until it is thickened, but not extremely thick, about 10 minutes. Cool the filling and puree it in the food processor with the metal blade.
- To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
- Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until the butter is finely mixed in, but the mixture is still cool and powdery. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball.
- Invert the bowl onto a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Briefly knead the dough 2 to 3 times to make it smooth. Shape the dough into a rough cylinder. You may refrigerate both the dough and filling for a couple of days before continuing.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each to a rope about 12 inches long.
- Place 1 rope on a floured surface and press and roll it to make a rectangle of dough about 4 inches wide and 12 inches long. Pipe or spoon about 1/6 of the filling down the middle of the dough, spreading it about 2 inches wide with a small offset spatula. Use a pastry brush to paint the exposed dough with water, then lift up the dough all around to enclose the filling within a tube of dough. Pinch the seam closed where the 2 edges of dough meet. Turn the filled piece of dough over so that the seam is on the bottom and transfer it to one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing 3 filled dough cylinders on each pan. Gently flatten the cylinders of dough with the palm of your hand.
- Bake the cookies until the dough is set and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. About halfway though the baking, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives strong bottom heat, bake the pan on the lower rack stacked on a second one for insulation.
- Cool the cookies on the pans and when they are cool, trim the edges and use a sharp knife to cut them into 2 1/2-inch lengths.
Storage: Keep the cookies between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight fitting lid.