ITALIAN CHRISTMAS COOKIES
These Italian Christmas Cookies (Cuccidati) are filled with figs, nuts, raisins, and other goodies. Perfect anytime of the year!
- 1/2 cup of walnut pieces
- 4 teaspoons of orange juice
- 2 teaspoons of orange zest
- 1 3/4 cup chopped dried figs, (about 9 oz)
- 1 cup chopped, pitted, dried dates (about 4 oz)
- 6 tablespoons of honey
- 6 tablespoons of brandy (see substitution notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup of shortening
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of milk
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons of milk
- 2 cups of icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rainbow nonpareil
First, add honey, brandy and orange juice to a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Simmer the mixture while whisking while the honey liquefies.
Then, once the mixture is simmering, add the figs and chopped dates and stir. Arrange the fruit in an even layer in the pan. Simmer 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Let cool.
Once cool, transfer the figs / dates to the bowl of a food processor, lifting the fruit up and leaving any excess liquid. Add the orange zest and cinnamon and mix until all the fruit is broken down and the mixture is quite smooth. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the nuts and toss to distribute them evenly. I like to keep the nuts a bit big.
Unmould topping mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Transfer to the freezer to chill for at least 2 hours if you are making the cucidati the same day, or in the refrigerator if you are letting the filling stand overnight or longer.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl). Add shortening and work it into the dry ingredients with a cookie cutter or your hands, if you prefer. The mixture will not be smooth or very wet. It should look like small, rough crumbs, no larger than the size of a pencil eraser or so.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (or hand mixer), set the speed to low while you pour the combined wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry mixture. Let everything mix until a ball of dough forms. It shouldn't be sticky.
Preheat the oven to 350 ° F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set the sheets aside for now.
Cut the dough in half and lay out half on a floured work surface. Work the dough into a thin and uniform rectangle. I like to use a large sheet of baking paper because you can easily lift it when you roll the cucidati. You may want to wrap the remaining half of the dough and place it in the fridge while you work with the first half.
Take a piece of filling and roll it between your hands until it is about 3/4 "thick. Place it along the bottom edge of the dough rectangle. Lift the dough from the bottom and roll up -It tightly around the filling Cover it and cut the dough at the base once it is completely rolled up.
Pinch the seam closed, then gently roll it to flatten the seam. With the seam down, slice off segments using a sharp, non-serrated knife. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets about 1 "apart. They do not spread out much during baking.
Repeat for the rest of the dough and the filling. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the bottom of the cucidati is golden brown. Let the cucidati cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once the cucidati have cooled, whisk together the confectionery sugar, milk and vanilla extract until smooth. You want the frosting to be thick enough that you can soak the cucidati, but you can adjust the amounts of sugar and / or confectionery milk to match the consistency to your preferences.
Dip the top of each cucidati in the frosting, then sprinkle with non-like rainbow. Let the icing set before serving or storing. Happy Cooking Time.
Brandy Substitutions: You can use whiskey, rum, wine, apple juice, or even water if you're in a rush.