Cucidate, the Italian Fig cookie from Sicily is a tribute to my grandfather.
He came to America twice before he actually decided to stay, and I can understand his tripidation to settle in he states. I visited the family in Isnello outside of Palermo seven years ago. I walked around a village with one of the most beautiful mountain backdrops I’ve ever seen, while the ocean was only twenty minutes away.
It’s an earthy place of tradition, created by many visiting cultures over centuries of acquisition. The people are humble, and yet rich in a food culture that is probably the most flavorful and robust of Italian cuisine.
Cucidate, the little fig cookies, while appearing quite demure in appearance, hit the senses, as a true Christmas cookie, first with an aroma of the dried fruits soaked in a liquor and then combined with nuts, cinnamon, and honey, wrapped in a delicate pastry.
This is probably a little extra special for me, because my grandfather had a fig tree he treated like a bab. Right before he died, he kept talking about “her.” Yes, he had decided his fig tree was a she, and he was worried, that she needed to be covered up for the winter or in his words, “shessa gonna die.”
My grandfather was never part of any organized crime, so please scratch your ideas about the people of Sicily. He was a kind soul who invited everyone who knocked on our door in for coffee. The family joke would be that we might find him serving coffee and cake to a burglar that tried to rob the house.
His daughter, my mother (Retro Rose) has that Sicilian spirit. I can’t tell you how many times, I go to her apartment and she’s feeding the maintenance men. She’s making someone a pot of meatballs at least weekly. Last night when I gave her some of these cookies, her first words were “can you make these for one of the elders at church.” I emphatically said no, these are just for the family.
Today, I had to think about that because aren’t Christmas cookies something we make to give away, to show our love for others? After researching these cookies, I read many stories about how often these cucidate are given away as gifts, and it got me thinking that I should plan to make several batches.
These cucidate excude the heart of the Sicilian culture. The dough is sweet; the fig filling full of flavor and life, and they make the perfect Christmas cookie gift, because they hit the heart.
The Process for Cucidate, Italian Fig Cookies
There are many ways to roll the cookies. I did some triangles, but found these to be the easiest. Some will turn the seam on the bottom, so you can’t see it. You can choose your own way.
I made an orange glaze and poured this over the cookies when hot, then sprinkled with these Italian cookie sprinkles I found in an Italian grocery store.
So tell me do you have a traditional cookie you like to give away as a gift? Have you ever had cucidati, the ultimate Sicilian fig cookie?
- 2 cups dried figs (or 2 cupsfig jam)
- 2 cups dried dates (or dried plums)
- 1 cup raisins
- ¼ cup bourbon or Grand Marnier, Cognac or Brandy
- 1 cup almonds or walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup orange marmalade
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sugar (I always cut my sugar. I used ⅔ cup sugar)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 2 eggs
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- ⅛ teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- ¼ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice) I used juice of one satsuma.
- small colored sprinkles
- Soak Raisins in bourbon for an hour up to overnight.
- Add to the rest of the ingredients.
- Grind all ingredients in food processor or Vitamix. The mixture should be ground enough to spread in the cookie. I substituted fig jam for dried figs and dried plums for dates.
- Refrigerate filling overnight.
- Mix flour, baking powder, sugar together.
- Cut butter in. I used the Kitchen Aid Mixer. You could cut in with pastry blender or use a food processor also.
- Beat eggs and milk to together. Reserve 1 tablespoon milk. You may not need it.
- Add to flour mixture, and form a dough. Add the extra milk of it's too dry.
- Separate dough in 4 sections. Wrap each in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for one hour or overnight.
- Mix confectioner's sugar with orange juice. Add water a little at a time, until you have a thin glaze.
- Work with one section of pastry dough at a time.
- Roll each section into a tube. Divide into two sections to make it easier to work with.
- Flatten out each tube. Put mixture in center. Pull sides up to reach. Cut into 1½ inch cookies.
- Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
- Spoon glaze over each cookie. Top with sprinkles.