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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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December 30, 2008

Cuccidati Cookies

CUCCIDATI (Italian Fig Cookies - the little logs with the dark filling)
This recipe is from a December issue of Gourmet magazine (not sure which year)
(makes about 5-1/2 dozen and I often make 1/2 recipe)

NOTE:  It's Christmas 2010 now and I'm going to add some pictures of the "putting together" process here which might be of some help.  Plus I came up with a couple of helpful ideas this year and will add those with the pictures.

1 c. packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz.), hard tips discarded
3/4 c. raisins (3-3/4 oz.)
3/4 c. mild honey
1/4 c. brandy*
1-1/2 tsp. fine fresh orange zest
1 tsp fine fresh lemon zest
1 T ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg**
3/4 c whole almonds (4 oz) toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 c walnuts (3 oz) toasted and coarsely chopped

Pastry dough
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c plus 2T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ c whole milk ***
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp fine fresh orange or lemon zest


1 c confectioners sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1-1/2 to 2 T fresh orange juice

First make filling:

Pulse figs and raisins in a food processor until finely chopped (NOTE:  I don't have a food processor and found through experience that a blender does NOT work.  In another recipe, I saw a recommendation to use a meat grinder, so off to Ebay I went and found a little Rival one for cheap and have been using that quite successfully ever since.)  Anyway, then stir in the remaining filling ingredients and chill covered for at least 8 hours.  I pack it down into the bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap down onto the surface and also lay a plate on top of the bowl to keep it from drying out.  (Can be made up to 1 week ahead.) 

Next make the dough:

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and blend with your fingertips (I have never had the nerve to try this although I've always wanted to) or a pastry blender (which I also don't have so I use two table knives "X-fashion") or pulse in a food processor just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps.  Add eggs, milk, vanilla and zest and stir with fork until a soft dough forms.  Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten those in rough 6 by 4 inch rectangles between sheets of plastic wrap and chill, wrapped, at least 8 hours.  (Dough can be additionally wrapped in foil and kept chilled for up to 3 days.)

And now, make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out one of the rectangles (keeping the other in the fridge) into a 15 by 14 inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. (NOTE: I’ve always used both a floured pastry cloth and a rolling pin “stocking”.) Trim that down to 10 x 13 inches and then cut that into four 10 x 3-1/4 inch strips. (Are you thinking this is insane yet? I can’t really say I’ve discovered the perfect way to do this - I seem to have rulers, tape measures, strips of craft wood, in use by the time it’s all over. This for me is probably the edgiest chore.) NOTE:  And here's a picture showing what I tried this year and it worked very well!!

I always had a hard time measuring the correct dimensions when the whole piece of dough is fairly misshapen (even though I try hard to keep it rectangular).  This year I cut a piece of parchment paper to the 10 x 13 size, marked off the 3-1/4" width of four strips across it and then rolled out the dough until I had a piece big enough for the paper to fit on.  I cut around the edges and then used a small metal skewer to punch little holes down the lines, removed the paper, and cut the strips following the lines.  Pretty darned nifty if you ask me and it worked so much better than my previous methods!

But moving along, arrange 1/3 cup filling in a little log, down the center length of each strip. Bring the sides of the strip up over the filling, pinching slightly to seal and then roll over seam side down and press gently to seal seams. Cut these logs into 1-1/2 inch lengths.

NOTE:  After 6 or 7 years of making these, I have decided 1/3 cup filling is too much - for one thing, you'll run out before you've made all the cookies.  And this is another part of the process that has proved difficult in the past.  This year, I tried several ways and finally liked my last method best (for now!)  I buttered my hands quite thoroughly and then rolled the filling in my hands to make the log.  I used only enough to go the length of the strip and it wasn't 1/3 of a cup.  So this is something to experiment with and see what works for you and how much you can cut back on filling and still have a yummy cookie.

Cut the cookies into 1-1/2" bars (I actually make mine smaller than this.  Place the cookies on a large buttered baking sheet and continue making cookies with second rectangle and trimmings (roll trimmings only once) and filling.  (picture shows a sealed log in front with cookies waiting to bake)

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

While cookies bake, make icing:

Whisk together sugar, vanilla and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing. Brush icing on the slightly warm cookies, then cool completely.  And here they are with their glaze applied:

*I buy those little miniature bottles of brandy for this cause much as I love my wine, I don’t care for brandy!

**Just noticed when typing this that I had crossed through the nutmeg in the original recipe - don’t know if that’s cause I used it the first time and didn’t like it or just thought it was too small an amount to bother with. At any rate, I’ve never included it in the filling.

***I have sometimes bought a small container of whole milk for this but I have also used my regular skim milk in it.

To store cookies, layer between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.


Christopher said...

I will happily attest to the deliciousness of these cookies, and after exhausting myself reading the recipe, I'm all the more grateful you make them each year! Yum!

Missy said...

I hope to try these this year - they sound scrumptious! The link to the Rum Cake doesn't work. Did you take that recipe down?

Mary Lynne said...

Good luck with the cookies, Missy - just be prepared to spend some solid time on them. :) And thanks for the info about the rum cake recipe. I'll look at it now to see what's wrong with the link.

And, it's a nice EASY recipe. :) Merry Christmas!

Missy said...

Thanks Mary Lynne. After a big glass of eggnog spiked with amaretto, I'm feeling like I can handle ANY recipe, especially with all the good tips you give! Less trial and error for me. :-)

Mary Lynne said...

Ah, a woman after my own heart - that's how I managed to have a wonderful trip my first journey to Italy after I sprained my ankle the day I arrived. Two glasses of wine and a couple of aspirin at lunch the second day and, pain or not, I was ready to see it all. :)

I fixed the link to the rum cake recipe, FYI.

Missy said...

Thanks! Found the rum cake... now off to the grocery store to get ingredients for all the cooking. Don't know how much I'll get done, but when Christmas gets here, I'll stop and see what I've got. ;-) Hope you have a very merry Christmas!

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