Cucidati (Italian Fig Cookies)
Serves: 26 to 30 cookies
This delicious Sicilian cookie is often served on March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph, which is an important Italian holiday. We think this traditional Italian cookie makes a nice Christmas treat as well.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, in small lumps
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 to 5 tablespoons cold cream or half-and-half
- 6 ounces dried figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup seedless raisins
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup hot water
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon hazelnut or walnut liqueur, or rum
- ½ cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts (or walnuts), coarsely chopped
- 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut in butter and shortening to make an evenly crumbly dough. In another bowl or measuring cup, whisk together egg, vanilla and 3 tablespoons cream. Stir into dough until incorporated. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky; if necessary, add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons cream.
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour; dough should firm up slightly and lose some of its stickiness, but still be soft.
- While dough is chilling, make the filling: Place all ingredients except liqueur and nuts in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until fruits are warmed through and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur and nuts.
- Place mixture in a food processor (or food grinder) and grind on high speed to make a thick paste. If mixture is too thick to puree, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- On a floured board or pastry cloth, roll out dough very thinly, about 1/16 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a 2¼- to 2½-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Reroll scraps once.
- Arrange half the rounds on ungreased cookie sheets, leaving 1½ inches between cookies. Place about 1 tablespoon filling on top of each round; you want a fairly generous amount of filling in proportion to cookie size. Top with remaining dough rounds. Press each cookie gently with the palm of your hand, then press edges with the tines of a fork to seal (if fork sticks to dough, flour the fork).
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 10 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are golden. Remove immediately to wire racks.
- While cookies bake, make the glaze: Whisk together sugar, orange juice, and vanilla until smooth. Mixture should be runny. Spoon over warm cookies.