So, cuccidati, aka Sicilian Fig Cookies. These are a Christmas staple; I grew up eating them, and while I liked them, I didn’t love them. My grandmother’s version was what she grew up with; her family were Sicilian peasants that came to the US in the 19th century. Always struggling financially, they kept their traditions, and cuccidati at Christmas was a tradition. I’ve no doubt that dried figs were a luxury, so when making these cookies, the filling was quite sparse; what you ate was mostly cookie. A somewhat flavorless, not crunchy, but certainly not soft, cookie, since the dough was made with shortening and very little sugar, it stands to reason. I always thought the cookie should be softer and more flavorful, as well as plump and bursting with fig flavor; I already had the distinction as being the grand-daughter with the sassy mouth, so while I may have mentioned it, I didn’t press the issue.
Years passed, I married my husband, and to my delight, my mother-in-law, Miss Nettie, also of Sicilian heritage, baked the best cuccidati I had ever tasted! They were plump with fig filling, and what wonderful filling it was! Rich, full-flavored, and lots of it! Did I mention that part? Not a smidge, but filling that you could see after you bit into the cookie. I remember asking my husband why he had failed to mention how delicious her fig cookies tasted. He looked at me aghast and said, “I don’t eat those things. I tell mom to put them in separate containers because they contaminate all of the good cookies.” Pfft…I should have known. Anyway, my mother-in-law passed away in February 2006, and even though I had made other Sicilian cookies with her, I had never made the cuccidati. Then, not too long after her funeral, my father-in-law gave me a binder that either he or my sisters-in-law had put together, and in it was her cuccidati recipe! Hallelujah!
As it turns out, I never got around to making the cookies until last year. My mom, sister, and I decided to make a day of it. My mother wanted me to use Emeril’s recipe that she had made the year before. “It’s the best, even better than grandma’s.” I’m all about keeping the peace in the family, so I didn’t even argue. I made Emeril’s filling and cookie dough for my mom to use. And, I also made Miss Nettie’s fig filling, with my own tweaks, because I’m compulsive that way, that I used. The dough I decided to use has cream cheese, and it’s lovely, soft, delicious, and a dream to roll. My sister prefers to cut and place cookies on the pan.
So, which are better? Well, both fillings are are delicious, truly, they really are; however, I prefer my own because the cookie texture is softer. And, for this year, I only made my filling, but I made a batch of each cookie dough.
- 2-14 oz packages dried figs (crown or string), hard ends trimmed
- 10 oz pitted dates
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 10 oz glace’ cherries
- 4 oz candied pineapple
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- One whole orange, cut into chunks
- Zest of one orange
- 1/2 cup cherry preserves
- 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
- 2 cups almonds, toasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup honey
- Cookie Dough
- Glaze, optional
Combine the first eleven ingredients in a large bowl; toss together.
Using a food grinder or a food processor, grind ingredients in batches.
Empty entire contents in a large bowl.
Grind pecans and add to the fig mixture.
Add spices and honey – using clean hands, mix well.
Refrigerate filling until ready to roll and fill cookies.
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 32 cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz cream cheese, softened
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt.
With the mixer on low, drop in butter cubes, one piece at a time, until mixture is crumbly and wet.
Add in vanilla extract and cream cheese and continue to mix until dough starts to clump together
Divide dough into 4 discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill.
Flour a large surface.
Working with one disc of dough, divide into medium-size pieces, and roll each piece into a rectangular shape, 6″x3″ and 1/4″ thick.
Place a fig log onto the middle of the dough, bring long sides together, and pinch to seal.
Roll filled log a few times to lengthen a bit.
Cut into desired sizes, about 2-3 inches, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes; remove cookies to a rack to cool.
Once cooled, glaze and decorate with sprinkles.
Yield: 22-24 dozen, depending upon size
Glaze (enough to glaze 3 dozen cookies)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons whole milk
Microwave butter and milk together until butter melts.
Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Once the cookies are cooled, dip cookie tops into glaze and immediately add sprinkles, if using.
Allow glaze to set before serving.
I make the filling about 3 days before I plan to make the cookies, and I make the dough the day before. The process is lengthy, so I find it easier to make everything over a few days.
- My grandmother used to tint her glaze blue or pink. My mom and sister like their cookies plain. I prefer a white glaze with sprinkles. So, whatever you choose, it’s all good.
- These cookies freeze and ship well; if freezing, I don’t glaze them beforehand, but apply the glaze and sprinkles when ready to serve.