Think of cuccidati as a more mature Fig Newton. The classic Sicilian cookies make an appearance around Christmastime, filling flaky dough with a fig or mixed-fruit jam. Enjoyed as is or smeared with icing and adorned by sprinkles and other colorful touches, they’re festive, fun and above all delicious. For one of the Garibaldina Society’s members, these cookies are a lifelong pursuit.
Ignazio Vivirito learned to make cuccidati at the age of 10 in a Sicilian bakery, his first place of employment. The career baker and chef has more than 70 years of practice making the classic cookies, often measuring ingredients by eye or the length of his finger. This recipe is an adaptation of Vivirito’s, with exact measurements included. His cuccidati dough comes together fairly easily, as does the filling — just be sure to plan your prep and cook time in advance, as the dried fruit needs to soak overnight. Once the dough is finished, the pastry can hold in the fridge well-wrapped for a few days.
Make the dough: Sift together the flour, baking powder, vanilla powder (if using) and salt, and set aside.
Combine the shortening and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until well blended. Increase the speed to medium, add 2 of the eggs one at a time, honey and milk powder and mix until well combined. (If using vanilla extract, add that here as well.) Add the ice water and a drop or two of yellow food coloring and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture and continue to mix until a soft, smooth dough is formed.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and form into a loaf. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Make the filling: Grind the figs in the work bowl of a food processor until almost smooth but still chunky. Add the tutti frutti or candied fruit and the raisins and pulse to form a paste. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the almonds, walnuts, vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Assemble the cookies: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Lightly beat the remaining egg together with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl to make an egg wash and set aside.
Remove the dough and filling from the refrigerator. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and cover each to retain moisture. Put some of the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a smooth round tip, about ½ inch in diameter. (Alternatively, fill a single-use piping bag and snip a ½-inch opening at the bottom.)
Working with one piece of dough at a time, dust a clean work surface with flour, place the dough on the flour and then dust the dough with flour and roll it into a 4-by-15-inch rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Using a pastry cutter or very sharp knife, divide the dough lengthwise into two long rectangles (2 by 15 inches each). Lift one of the rectangles and move toward you and away from the other. Pipe a log of filling along the outer edge of the length of the rectangle. Gently roll the filled side of the dough toward the nonfilled side to make a log. Pinch the seam to attach it to the dough underneath it and lay the log seam side down. Flatten the log slightly and slice the log into 2-inch lengths. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1½ inches apart. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with colored sprinkles or nonpareils, if desired (if not icing). Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Bake the cookies in batches until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the pan.
While the cookies are baking, make the icing (if using) by whisking the powdered sugar together with the milk or heavy cream in a small bowl to form a thick but pourable paste.
When the cookies are completely cool, drizzle about 1 tablespoon of icing on each and decorate immediately with colored sprinkles or nonpareils.
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