Today’s Contest Spotlight is shining on Lorraine Fina Stevenski of Land O Lakes, Florida, and her family’s recipe for Italian Fig Cookies, also called Cucidati.
When our son, Gio, saw Lorraine’s cookie picture, he licked his lips and said, “We HAVE to make these!” Just wait until he finds out that these cookies are Sicilian in heritage – I’m not even sure he likes figs, but I have a feeling he’s going to enjoy these cookies.
In addition to Lorraine’s family story, she also included some information about the origin of these cookies, which we enjoyed learning about. For Tony, these cookies instantly brought back memories of the holiday and wedding “sweets tables” present at every Italian celebration when he was growing up in Toronto.
Thank you for sharing your special recipe and story with us, Lorraine, and GOOD LUCK!
If you have a special holiday recipe that has passed from one generation to another, we would love to have you share it with us!
Please send your recipe, along with a short story about its heritage to us via email to email@example.com. Photos are highly encouraged, but not required. Top Prize is a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!
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Italian Fig Cookies
original recipe from Lorraine Fina Stevenski
Here is a classic Italian FIG COOKIE recipe I have updated to suit my contemporary taste. I remember growing up in New York and making this cookie every Christmas. Making this FIG COOKIE became our kitchen get together as the family gathered to make this cookie.
Aunt Hilda, Mom, Grandpa and us kids each were assigned a task for the making of this cookie. I so miss those days when the tiny New York kitchen was filled with laughter and so many opinions of how this cookie should be made. Grandpa surely loved to argue that more of this or that should be added. The mess was astounding on the floors and counters. The enjoyment of being together will forever remain in my memory.
I am 60 now and most of my family has passed away. My sisters and cousins are the new generation in our Italian family. I am now the designated family baker and cherish every recipe my mother hand wrote in her recipe box. My mother has several versions of this recipe from her Aunt Adaline and my Aunt Florence in her recipe box and she then created her own version.
I combined the best of all these recipes to create my version of this delicious Italian cookie. I use my food processor to make the dough and filling as the most contemporary update in this recipe. Here is the culmination of 4 generations of this unique Italian FIG COOKIE.
COOKS NOTE: You MUST make the dough and filling at least 1 day before baking. The dough must be cold to work with and the filling needs time for the flavors to blend.
4 cups All-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, cold, cut into 16 pieces
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk, or cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
1 cup dried figs, MISSION, 8 0z.,with tips cut off
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup honey, light colored
1/2 cup raspberry jam, seedless
1 cup candied fruit, Old English, fruit and peel mix
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Sealing: 1 Beaten Egg
Wondra Flour for working with the dough
MAKE THE DOUGH: Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl to the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend.
Add the butter on top and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the eggs, milk, vanilla and zests and process JUST until a soft dough forms.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead a few times and then form into 2 small disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least OVERNIGHT. This dough is very delicate to work with and it must be very cold to roll.
MAKE THE FILLING: In a food processor, pulse the figs and raisins together until finely chopped; remove to a large bowl. Add the nuts to the bowl of the processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped; add to the fig mixture in the bowl. Stir in the remaining filling ingredients with a wooden spoon until combined. Adjust the spices to your taste. Chill, covered OVERNIGHT.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper. Work with one dough disk at a time.
Lightly flour a work surface. I like Wondra flour because it is easy to shake on the surface. Place a large piece of parchment paper on the surface. Lightly flour. Place the dough disk on top of the parchment and lightly flour. Place ANOTHER large piece of parchment over the dough disk. Roll out the disk of dough into a 6 X 12 X 1/4 inch thick RECTANGLE. Remove the top piece of parchment. Use a pizza cutter to trim the sides of the rectangle.
Sprinkle the cut dough with cinnamon sugar. Arrange 1/2 of the filling in a 1 inch wide log down the center of each strip. Using the bottom sheet of the parchment as an aid, fold the sides of each strip UP AND OVER the filling to enclose it, pinching the edges together to seal. Brush with egg to seal the edges. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten the seams. Use floured hands to evenly roll the log. The dough will be very sticky and soft so keep it cool. Return it to the refrigerator if necessary.
Cut the logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1- 1/2 inch-wide slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the half sheet pan, seams sides down. Brush with more egg, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and then colored nonpareils. Bake the cookies until golden around the edges about 15-20 minutes. The dough will puff up. Repeat with the second disk of dough while the first batch is baking. REMEMBER TO ROLL THE DOUGH ON FLOURED PARCHMENT PAPER TOP & BOTTOM-TO HELP WORK WITH THE DOUGH. KEEP IT COOL.
Let the cookies cool on the pan for 15 minutes then transfer to waxed paper lined trays to cool completely before storage.
Submitted by Lorraine Fina Stevenski of Land O Lakes, FL
Also from Lorraine Fina Stevenski:
I found this bit of information while researching the origin of the Fig Cookie.
Cuccidati : Italian Fig Cookies
Cuccidati are Christmas cakes. They come in many shapes: large wreaths, small cookies, horseshoes, and logs. The latter are the most traditional for making at home. Interestingly, their styles haven’t changed one bit over the last several hundred years.
In Little Italy at the turn of the century, and up to about ten years ago, the only way to make these cakes was to grind the figs and raisins in a meat grinder. In Sicily, before Christmas, the butcher did every-one a favor. After they bought his meat, he would clean his grinding machine, and then anyone from the town who wanted to make cuccidati would bring sacks of figs and raisins to the shop and wait in line for them to be ground. Today, the figs and raisins can be ground in a food processor. Note that this filling and dough must be begun at least 3 days before serving.
Cuccidati, Cucidati, Cuddureddi, Buccellati: All of these and more are the names given to a wonderful sweet the origin of which is in Sicily. They are often cited as Christmas or Wedding sweets, but see not reason why they could not be made and eaten all year round.