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Cucidati – Sicilian Christmas Cookies

Cucidati-Sicilian Christmas Cookies
Contributor: Mike Riley

In my childhood, after Thanksgiving passed my mother would create one of my favorite treats: cucidati, or Sicilian Christmas cookies. After lots of experimentation, I’ve come close to matching the glories of her pastries. So here’s my recipe in case you feel like baking your own.

Prep Time: 8 hours
Cooking Time: 20 min.
Servings: 24
Ingredients

Filling:
2 cups dried figs, hard tips discarded
1 1/2 cups dried dates, pitted
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup whole walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup honey
1/8 cup brandy
1/8 cup Jallab syrup (a middle-Eastern syrup made from raisins, dates, and rose water – see amazon.com for Jallab Syrup by Kassatly Chtaura)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets. On a lightly floured surface, one at a time, roll out each piece of dough into a thin 12-inch square. Cut the dough into 4 by 3-inch rectangles.

To make the filling, combine the figs, dates and raisins in a food processor, and pulse to finely chop into a very thick paste. Place the mixture in a medium bowl, chop the nuts to small pieces and add them plus the remaining filling ingredients to the paste. Use your hands to combine into a VERY thick paste. Ziploc bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

To make the dough, in a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Add the butter and blend with your fingertips until most of mixture resembles coarse meal. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, milk and vanilla together. Add to the dry mixture and stir to make a rough dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 4 pieces, cover, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Now prepare to get gooey: use your hands to grab off 2 tablespoons of filling and roll it into a long rod shape. Place the rods down the center of each rectangle. Fold the long sides of each rectangle inward to the center to enclose the filling; pinch the edges to seal. Turn the cookies seam-sides down and press gently to flatten the seams.

Arrange the logs 1/2-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Brush with egg wash or brush tops with Jalob syrup. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Serve logs cut in halves, or as one-inch long pieces. Keeps well when frozen.

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