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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cucidati, Italian X Cookies

Everything just seems better when there are Sprinkles!!

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 Soft pockets of sweet dough surrounding moist fig filling full of complex flavors.  All this in a cookie?  If you've been following BIWB, you know that this is the cookie that started it all for me on this blog idea.  I made these last year, for the very first time, at Christmas.  I did the same again this year.  Winner!  I make ~literally~ a TON of xmas cookies each year for friends and family.  These cucidati I make for myself.  These are MY Christmas tradition.   

I discovered this recipe through Proud Italian Cook, a wonderful cooking blog by Marie.  She continues to inspire me in becoming Italian, if not by birth at least through cooking.  Her recipe and methods are sourced from Nick Malgieri, an amazing baker and author.  I recently stumbled on his Italian Cookie baking show with Julia Child, the icon.  I loved her show, Baking with Julia.  Yes, I have the book...And, now being the baking geek that I fully am embracing (we all have our idiosyncrasies), I just might have to get the DVD! 

So, today, I bring you Cucidati, a Sicilian cookie.  Lots of little details and so good.  So many complex flavors and so rewarding.  So very Italian! 

Cucidati (Italian X Cookies)
Original recipe by Nick Malgieri (I don't have permission to reprint it here, so please follow the link.)
Note:  I did find Nick's recipe on this link...another recipe variant, but Nick's original recipe also calls for 1/2 tsp cloves, 3 oz of chocolate, and 1 tsp espresso granules...Couldn't image these cookies without ANY of those ingredients. 

Makes about 60 cookies

Nick is very particular about sharing his recipes.  I tried to create an easy link to his recipe page, and I am not permitted to re-copy it here without his permission.  He's locked that concept down, and I will honor that.  So, here is the Step-by-Step, in BIWB fashion, to help you navigate cucidati...Easier than you might think!

Christmas Eve
Make the Pasta Frolla...Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the food processor.  Pulse a  few times to mix.  Add the butter.
Pulse repeatedly until it is finely incorporated and the mixture is powdery.
Add the eggs, all at once, and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball.
Scrape the dough onto a floured surface.
Press the dough into a square about an inch thick and wrap it in plastic wrap. Chill the dough.  I chill overnight, but I would guess that a few hours will do.
Make the Fig Filling, assemble all your ingredients.  These days, I'm only using bittersweet chocolate.  And, for these, I brought out the big guns: ScharffenBerger.  I used my home-made apricot jam.  Nuf said. 
Stem and dice the figs. Calimyrna figs can be found at Trader Joes.  They are white figs with a tender skin.  I have a short addiction to them when they are available only at this time of year. 
Some of these figs where a bit dry, so I placed them in a saucepan and covered them with water and a splash of rum.  Just bring them to a boil over medium heat. Drain the figs in a strainer and allow them to cool.  Note: I saved that poaching liqueur and re-plumped my raisins (microwave worked great).
In the same food processor bowl, combine the diced figs with the rest of the filling ingredients. 
Pulse to grind the filling mixture finely. Scrape the filling into a bowl and chill it.  I chill overnight.  A few hours should do it. 

~~  Time to Just Chill with the Little Girl ~~ 

Christmas Day
When you are ready to start making the cookies, take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough lightly to make it malleable again and roll it up into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into twelve equal pieces.  Yes, I use a ruler because I'm a baking geek.  Notice, though, that they aren't perfect...
Do the same thing with the filling.  This year, my filling was a bit on the loose side, but it worked out great.  Actually, better in the finished cookie.
One at a time, on a floured surface, flatten each piece into a rectangle in your hands.  Roll it out with as little flour as you can into a rectangle 3 inches wide and 12 inches long.   This dough is super easy to work with.  Keep it cold if you can.  I work with half the dough/filling at a time.  Same dough as my Biscotto Dolce di Ricotta.
Paint the egg wash on the dough.  Take a piece of the filling and roll it gently in your hands to form a roll.  It may break, but that's okay.  Just piece them together and place the filling down the middle of your dough.
Bring the edges of dough up around the filling to enclose it, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal in the filling.
Use your palms to roll over the filled cylinder of dough until it extends to 15 inches, then cut it into 3-inch lengths. Set the filled cylinders onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet while filling, rolling, and cutting the other pieces of dough.  Each tube of dough yields 5 cookies.  Some pieces of dough were on the big side and for these I made 6 cookies (18 inches).  It happens...
Place on the sheet pan with parchment liners.  No other way.  Turn on the oven to 350 as you finish filling the second sheet.  Make about a 1-inch-long cut in the middle of each end of a 3-inch piece.  Scissors...EASY. 
Pull the cut sides apart to make the cookie an X. 
Brush them with egg wash.
Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350, rotating pans (the pan twirl and up/down switch). 
Cool completely.  Make a Simple Glaze of confectioners' sugar, vanilla and water.  Or, use orange extract and some of the rum.  What do you think I used? ;-)
Store the cucidati between sheets of wax paper in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  I also freeze these in quart bags in single layers.  Easy!

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy
New Year filled with great times and great baking!!
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  1. WOW Ellen! Gorgeous! and I love how you keep them all to yourself, my kind of girl! I eliminate the chocolate because my husband never had them in the ones my MIL made. You put me to shame in your exact way of cutting them, you would crack up at me and the way I do it. Loved this post! and thanks for the sweet words! xox, Marie

  2. What's your kitty's name, and what kind of cat is she? (She resembles one of mine.)

  3. Ok, these babies were amazing! I was supposed to share these with my Italian-American neighbors to get their review...but alas, somehow they never made it out my house! I have a fig tree in my back yard Ellen, next summer we could do a Cucidati Party...

  4. Karl, I'm "in" on the cucidati party! We'll need to dry the figs, though...Marie (the Proud Italian Cook), from whom I gained the knowledge and techniques of making these, has a whole crowd helping her. Cocktails, cucidati and cupcakes...Triple C Party at Casa de Palmer? Just name the day!

  5. Her name is Natasha and she's a Russian Blue. She's almost 14 and doing amazing well for her age. She's a great audience and never begs! ;)


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