Next in line for our Christmas cookie Bonanza are these Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies, also known as cucidati. So put on your favorite Christmas CD and let’s get baking!
Admittedly, this type of cookie can be a little time consuming to prepare, but you will notice that it is usually one of the first cookies to disappear from your cookie platter. So when it’s time to make these Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies, my cookie strategy is to spread the process over three days.
Day 1: Make the dough and the filling
With the help of a food processor, these two activities can be completed in less than 30 minutes (including the clean-up time). I usually start the whole process by roasting the hazelnuts. (The details on how to do this can be found in the recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti). While they are roasting, I make the dough.
Place all of your dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse the cut-up butter until you get a coarse meal. Add your eggs, vanilla and orange zest and continue to pulse until a ball forms.
Are you beginning to smell the hazelnuts roasting? Probably time to pull them out of the oven. Give them a rub and then set them aside to cool off.
Okay, let’s get back to our mixture; separate in thirds, shape into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an overnight chill.
Once your food processor is clean again, place all of your ingredients for the filling in it and blend together in order to get the desired paste-like consistency.
I wish that this picture could be one of those scratch and sniff cards. The smell of the spices, coffee and chocolate is truly intoxicating. Place in a bowl, wrap it up and refrigerate in order for the flavors to blend.
That completes Day 1.
Day 2: Make the Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies
Now for the fun part! Grab your rolling pin, your fig mixture and one piece of dough. Over the years, I’ve developed a very practical, amateur approach to rolling this dough. I place it in between two pieces of parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to the cutting board and to avoid adding more flour which would ultimately make the dough tougher. Now, don’t feel bad if you are not able to roll out a perfect rectangle… after all these years of making this recipe, I still can’t do it perfectly! And that’s okay because the dough scraps can easily be re-rolled. What’s important is to roll out the dough to about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness; then with the help of a knife, cut out strips of dough, 3 inches wide and approximately 12 inches long.
I then place the spiced fig mixture down the center and with the help of the parchment paper, I lift up one end and then it join the other…once again, not very professional, but it works! You now have a log shaped fig cookie. Turn the log over so that the seam is on the underside. Flatten the top and it looks like a giant fig newton cookie.
Now as the official cookie maker of this recipe, you get to choose the shape of your cookies. You can form them into logs, horseshoes, large wreaths and my favorite, the shape of a X.
What I usually do is cut my 12 inch log in half and then again in half. So I now have 4 cookies , each about 3 inches long.
I then cut a slit at the bottom and top third. Place your cookie on the parchment paper, and separate the bottom and top half and voilà…you have the X.
Continue rolling, slicing until all of your dough and filling is finished. Then bake them.
Next comes the decorating part. You can easily do this on the second day – just wait a while for the cookies to cool down when they come out of the oven. Usually, though, since I make these Christmas cookies way ahead of time, at this point I will freeze them. I’ll only take them out to decorate when I am ready to serve them.
Day 3: Decorating the Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies
Are you ready to make some more decisions? When it comes to decorating these wonderful cookies, you have a couple of options. If you are a fan of multi-colored sprinkles, you can glaze the cookies and sprinkle away. I prefer a dusting of icing sugar over the tops. I’m always a fan of keeping things simple, especially during the holiday season.
Origins of recipe for Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies
I absolutely love figs. Whether fresh or dried, I just cannot get enough. I found this recipe in a Canadian Living Holiday Magazine many, many years ago, 1996 to be exact. It immediately caught my attention because of the figs. Imagine my surprise when I saw this recipe included in their featured cover page of Italian Cookies. Well, at that point in my life, I had never heard of such a cookie and I just had to try it. These Spiced Italian Fig Cookies have been part of my Christmas cookie platter ever since.
These cookies have their roots from la bella sicilia, an island in the south of Italy. But don’t think that every Sicilian will make these cookies the same! Maybe these Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies take on this appearance in one small Sicilian town, but in another small town 10km away, they can look totally different – they might be made with liquor, or prunes and raisins, or walnuts and almonds, or anything! The spices they use can be really different as well. Truly infinite possibilities!
Maybe you’re a little familiar with Italian cookies, and find these one to be a bit unique? There was once an Arab influence on Sicily, so you will find this area’s regional cooking a little different from the rest of Italy.
I hope you enjoy these Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies, also known as cucidati – they truly add a Sicilian flair to your cookie tray.
Spiced Italian Christmas Fig Cookies
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter cold, cut up
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon orange rind grated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts roasted and cooled
- 1½ teaspoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water
- 1 cup dried figs chopped, stems removed
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup currants or dried raisins
- 1/4 cup apricot or peach jam
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves ground
- In a food processor combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse together.
- Add cut up pieces of butter and pulse together until mixture is crumbly.
- Add eggs, vanilla and orange zest and continue to pulse until a ball forms. The mixture will pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Separate in thirds, shape into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an overnight chill.
- Place all of your ingredients for the filling in the food processor and blend together in order to get the desired paste-like consistency.
- Place in bowl, cover and place in fridge for an overnight chill.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 °F /190 °C
- Place one portion of the chilled dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll out the dough to obtain a large rectangle (12 x 9 inches) about 1/8 – ¼ thick; you should be able to make 3 pieces- each measuring 3-inches wide, and about 12 inches long.
- Place the spiced fig mixture down the center and enclose the mixture. Turn the log over so that the seam is on the underside. Flatten the top.
- Cut the 12 inch log in half and then again in half. You should have 4 cookies about 3 inches long.
- Cut a slit at the bottom and top third of each cookie.
- Place your cookie on the parchment paper, and separate the bottom and top half and voilà…you have the X cookie.
- Continue rolling and slicing until all of your dough and filling is finished.
- Bake in 375 °F /190 °C for 18- 20 minutes or until golden.
- Transfer to rack to cool off.
- Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Thanks for dropping by.
Ciao for now!
Post update: 2016.09.15