In New Orleans, Santa Claus shops at Maison Blanche with a little help from Mr. Bingle, his reindeer can be swapped out with alligators, he frequents the Crescent City Farmers Market, and he has a taste for fine Italian deserts. So if you think you may have landed on the naughty list this year, or if you just want to be extra nice to old St. Nick, this recipe for Cuccidata, delicious Italian fig cookies, will help ensure everything you want is beneath the tree on Christmas morning. As a special Christmas bonus, these cookies are also great for parties or as a gift for that one relative you just can’t shop for every year.
Cuccidata (Italian fig cookies)
- 1 14-ounce package dried figs (cut off stems)
- 1 8-ounce package dates
- 1 cup candied mixed fruit
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 fresh orange
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 whole eggs, well beaten (at room temperature)
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 2 tablespoons almond extract or vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup cream
- food coloring, always pastel colors (optional)
- colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)
To prepare Filling: Use a food grinder to grind figs, dates, mixed fruit, pecans, raisins, and orange together. (I use the grinder attachment of my stand mixer, periodically putting a piece of the fresh orange through to keep it from jamming.) Mix well and refrigerate until ready to use. (See Note.)
To prepare Dough: Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl; cream with an electric mixer. (It will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.)
In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, and almond extract; mix well. Fold egg mixture into creamed mixture and beat for approximately 5 minutes.
In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture until dough is the consistency of putty; mix well. Roll dough into a large ball and cover with a towel. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Break off a piece of dough about the size of a baseball. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to form the dough into a roll about one foot long and the diameter of a broomstick. Press the roll to flatten it. Spoon filling in the center of the flattened roll, then pull the edges of the dough together over the filling and pinch to seal. Gently roll again.
Cut roll diagonally into cookies 1-1/2 inches long. Place cookies seam-side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Check to make sure cookies are cooked through. Cookies may be iced when cool.
To prepare Icing: Combine sugar and cream in a bowl; mix well. Add food coloring if desired. Frost the top of the cookies using a brush or your fingers. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.
Note: Prepare the filling one day or so before making the cookies. You can also add orange marmalade, almonds, or dried cherries to the filling.
Makes 4 dozen cookies
Recipe compliments of Poppy Tooker