No one seems to agree about exactly what—besides figs—goes into the filling for these classic Sicilian cookies, known as cucidati. The following recipe makes a lot of cookies, but they keep indefinitely—so they are a good choice for holiday giving.
Makes about 60 cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 large eggs
12 ounces (about 2 cups) dried Calimyrna figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup candied orange peel, diced
1/3 cup whole almonds, chopped and lightly toasted
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Egg Wash: 1 large egg, well beaten with 1 pinch salt
2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil
- To make the dough, in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse two or three times to mix. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until it is finely incorporated and the mixture is cool and powdery. Add the eggs, all at once, and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, then place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a square about an inch thick and wrap it. Chill the dough while preparing the filling.
- For the filling, in a large bowl, stem and dice the figs. If they are hard, place them in a saucepan, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Drain the figs in a strainer and allow them to cool before proceeding.
- In a bowl, combine the diced figs with the rest of the filling ingredients and stir them together. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse to grind the filling mixture finely. Scrape the filling back into the bowl used to mix it.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough lightly to make it malleable again and roll it up into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into twelve equal pieces. One at a time, on a floured surface, flatten each piece and make it into a rectangle 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. Paint the wash on the dough and evenly distribute 1/3 cup filling down its length. Bring the edges of dough up around the filling to enclose it, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal in the filling. Use your palms to roll over the filled cylinder of dough until it extends to 15 inches, then cut it into 3-inch lengths. Set the filled cylinders aside while filling, rolling, and cutting the other pieces of dough.
- Make a 1-inch-long cut in the middle of each end of a 3-inch piece and pull the cut sides apart to make the cookie an X, as in the illustration. Arrange the cookies on the pans and brush them with egg wash.
- Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, or until they are a light golden color. Slide the papers from the pans to racks.
- Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.