Cucidati – Italian Fig Cookies

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Cucidati is a traditional Italian cookie, originating in Sicily, that is filled with a mixture of figs and other fruits, nuts, and seasonings. Some recipes vary but the “standard” typically includes figs, dates, raisins, and walnuts and is bound together with honey and orange marmalade. I am actually surprised that my grandma never made these since they are such a popular Italian cookie, but when I asked my mom about it, she said my grandma hates figs, so I guess I have  my answer!

It was during a conversation with my Chief Culinary Consultant that I learned about cucidati. I was talking about the walnut pillow cookies that my grandma always made and he said that his grandma made something similar, but with raisins and figs. I stored it away in my memory bank, with intentions to try them at a later date. A few days later I was searching online for walnut pillow recipes because I was unsure if we would be able to find my grandma’s (we did!) and stumbled upon recipes for cucidati. I immediately saved them and decided I would make the cookies sooner rather than later.

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These cookies are slightly time consuming but totally worth the effort. The dough is wonderfully tender and more of a “short” dough, which makes it melt in your mouth. The filling (perhaps not surprisingly) tastes quite similar to a Fig Newton cookie, but with a much deeper and complex flavor. With the addition of dates, raisins, and walnuts to the figs, as well as the cinnamon, honey, and orange marmalade, these cookies pack a huge punch when it comes to flavor and texture.

If you have a food processor, definitely use it for processing both the walnuts as well as the figs/dates/raisins mixture. If you don’t  have one, just chop as finely as possible. As far as shaping and filling the cookies, the instructions provided below will yield a short rectangle “pillow” shape, but I experimented with many sizes and shapes, and encourage you to do the same!

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Cucidati (Italian Fig Cookies)

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tablespoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk

Filling

  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup dried dates, pitted
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped or ground in food processor
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup orange marmalade

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk (approximately)
  • Colored sprinkles (optional)

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar and combine well.
  2. Cut in the shortening with a fork or pastry blender and work the mixture until it looks like cornmeal.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, vanilla, and milk.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix with an electric mixer for a full 3 minutes. Dough will be soft.
  5. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, wrap each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
  7. To make the filling, grind figs, dates, and raisins in a food processor until coarse.
  8. Place fig, date, and raisin mixture in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Mixture will be thick. Set aside.
  9. Preheat oven to 375° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  10. Work with one piece of dough at a time, leaving the remaining pieces in the refrigerator until needed. On a floured surface roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Cut dough into 2×3-inch rectangles. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of filling into the middle of each rectangle. Carefully fold the short edges over to meet in the center and pinch to seal. Seal the sides as well.
  11. Place each cookie, seam-side down, on a baking sheet, leaving 1-2 inches between each cookie.
  12. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden in color.
  13. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before icing.
  14. For the icing, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to achieve the desired consistency. You’ll want the icing to be thick enough not to be runny, but still easily spreadable. Ice the tops of the cookies and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Let the icing set completely before storing in an airtight container.

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Adapted from RecipeZaar

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