Sicilian Fig and Nut Cookies
YIELD: 5 dozen cookies
Every year when my Mom and I got together to begin our Christmas baking, she would retell the story of how these cookies were made when she was a little girl,
long before there were electric food processors. Her mother, aunts, and cousins would gather to hand-chop the figs, nuts, dates, and orange peel, and to painstakingly measure out all of the dry ingredients. Everyone
would help form, bake, and decorate the cucidati, and when they were all done, they were stored in large tins or cloth sacks, to be divided among the various families when Christmas arrived.
They were indeed a labor of love, and no Christmas Eve celebration would be complete without them, even today. Just ask my youngest sister, Jo Ellen, who expects
a platter of them every year no matter where we gather for La Vigilia!
12 ounces of dried figs
4 ounces of dates or dark Dakota figs
1 cup of golden sultana raisins
the rind of 1 large orange
1/2 pound of almond or hazelnut meats
(or a mixture of both), roasted and chopped
1 cup of honey
1/2 cup of bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup of apricot preserves (optional)
2 1/2 cups of pre-sifted flour
1/2 cup of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar
the juice of 2 small lemons
multicolored cake-decorating sprinkles
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a food processor, grind the figs, dates, raisins, orange rind, and nuts
together until a coarse mixture is formed. Transfer to a 3-quart saucepan.
3. Stir in the honey, bourbon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and apricot preserves (if desired). Simmer on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring well. Let cool
4. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Cut in the butter or margarine with a pastry blender or two knives, until the
mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and milk until the dough can be gathered up with your fingers to form a ball. Finish kneading by hand. (This procedure may also be done in a food
processor). Divide the dough into 4 parts, wrap each part in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
5. Remove 1/4 of the dough at a time, and roll it out 1/4-inch thick on a floured board. Cut into 4-inch strips. Spread a row of filling 1-inch thick on the lower
half of one strip. Fold the top half of the dough over to cover the filling. With fingers or a fork, press the edges together to seal in the filling. Cut the filled strip on the diagonal into 1 to 2-inch pieces. Slash
each piece on top once with a sharp knife. Repeat until all the dough is used up. Remove another 1/4 of the dough from the refrigerator, and continue as above until the remaining dough is used up. If there is filling
left over, it can be frozen for future use.
6. Grease two large baking sheets. Place the cookie slices on the baking sheets 1 inch apart, and bake until lightly browned (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove from
the oven and cool on wire racks that have waxed paper underneath.
7. In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar with the juice. Glaze the cookies with icing, and immediately decorate with sprinkles.
Note: Cookies may also be made in the shape of wreaths by wrapping each strip of filled dough into a circle before baking. Dough wreaths should be slashed on top
with a sharp knife in several places before baking.