Nothing defines the Christmas Holiday in Italian households then Cuccidati (aka Buccelati, aka Italian Fig Cookies). Each family has their own version and twists to this recipe. There are aunts and Nonna's in your family that work tirelessly to make enough for everyone to have some each season - with everyone pitching in to help to secure your tray of cookies to take home and nosh on through the month.
Cuccidati by Epicurious
Makes 5 1/2 dozen cookies
For the filling
1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
¾ cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
¾ cup mild honey
¼ cup brandy
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
¾ cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
For the pastry dough
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest
For the icing
1 cup confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Garnish: multicolored nonpareils*
Making the filling:
Pulse figs and raisins in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours.
Making the dough: (8 hours to 1 day ahead of time)
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap.
Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.
Forming the cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin.
Trim to a 13- by 10-inch rectangle (chill trimmings), then cut into 4 (10- by 3 1/4-inch) strips.
Arrange 1/3 cup filling in a 1-inch-wide log lengthwise down center of each strip, then fold sides of each strip up over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams.
Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets. Make more cookies in same manner with remaining chilled dough, trimmings, and filling.
Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.
Making the icing: (while 1st batch of cookies bake)
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing.
Brush icing on warm cookies and decorate with nonpareils (if using), then cool completely.
(Filling can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered. • Dough can be chilled, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, up to 3 days. • Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week).