Fig cookies, or cucidati, are a Sicilian favourite that has gradually become universally popular. Usually, fig cookies are kept as a Christmas treat or for special celebrations like weddings. But, it is a real shame to only eat them once a year; they taste great anytime and are perfect for enjoying with a cup of coffee.
Making them the traditional way takes a bit of time and effort, but it is well worth it. The dough keeps well for a day or two in the fridge and, once baked, you can easily freeze these little beauties. This means you can break the cooking process down and do it over a couple of days. The fact that, once cooked, they freeze well means you can safely make a big batch.
Fig Cookie Pastry Gluten free ingredients
It is usually a good idea to make the pastry, first. Here is what you will need:
225 grams of chilled unsalted butter or lard, cut into cubes
4 large eggs
A little water (use only it looks a little dry, usually the moisture from the eggs is sufficient)
Ingredients for the fig cookie filling
500 grams dried figs, stems removed and roughly chopped (a lot of people recommend mission figs)
200 grams of dried pitted dates, lightly chopped
50 grams of dried raisins, chopped
50 grams candied orange peel, chopped (made from blood oranges, if possible)
60 ml orange flavoured syrup
50 ml of honey1 tablespoon of fig preserve or jam
1 tablespoon of fig preserve or jam
100 grams of toasted walnuts roughly chopped
80 grams of almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
2 tsp of ground nutmeg
In some areas, candied blood oranges and fig preserves can be tricky to get your hands on. Fortunately, making candied fruit is not difficult, there are plenty of recipes available online. Just bear in mind that candied fruits cannot be used straight away. Ideally, you should leave for at least a week. That way the sugary coating will have enough time to dry out and harden off a little, so it doesn’t all fall off when you chop it up.
Unless you have got access to fresh figs, to make your own fig preserve, you will need to buy some. You can sometimes find it in Italian delis and can definitely buy it online. Another approach is to leave the fig preserve out and add an extra 10 ml of honey.
If you do not want to make the candied peel and wait for the preserve to arrive, you can use this slightly less elaborate Italian Fig Cookie recipe. It produces a similar result to this recipe, but it uses ingredients that are easier to find locally.
Making the pastry for your gluten free Cucidati
Add the gluten free flour, baking powder, sugar and salt to your food processor. Pulse it a couple of times.
Add the butter and pulse it for about 15 times, to create a crumb. Now add the eggs and pulse until it forms a ball. If, after a few pulses, it does not start to come together, add a teaspoon or two of water. Provided your eggs are big enough you will not need to add any water.
If you do not have a food processor, just make your pastry the manual way. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that show you the best method.
Remove the dough from the processor and knead it for a minute or two, on a lightly floured surface. Remember to use gluten free, not regular flour to dust the worktop. Divide the dough into 10 small logs and wrap each one in cling film. Put the pastry in the fridge to chill. It will need a minimum of 30 minutes to rest.
If you want to, you can make the pastry a day in advance and keep it in the fridge. You will need to get it out about an hour or so before you are planning to bake your cookies. This will help you to roll the pastry out without it cracking.
Making the filling for your Christmas Fig Cookies
Now wipe out your food processor and put your figs and dried fruit in. Pulse them until they are very finely chopped. Be careful not to overdo things, you do not want to end up with a slurry-like substance.
Tip this mix out into a bowl. Now add the nuts and the other filling ingredients to the processor and pulse them. The nuts should be finely chopped, but be careful not to over blend them. If they are not coarse enough, you will not be able to taste the nuts enough and the texture will be too mushy.
Tip the nut mixture into the figs and mix them together. Scrape the filling out onto a floured surface and finish the blending process by gently kneading it. Shape it into a rough log, and divide it into 10 sections.
Assembling your Gluten free fig cookies
Before you assemble the cookies, turn the oven on, so it can be preheated to 350°F. You will also need to line two thin baking trays with parchment.
Take one piece of dough out of the fridge and roll the pastry to form a rope. Now, roll it flat. You should end up with an elongated rectangle of flat dough.
Now roll one of your filling sections into a thick rope, roughly the same length as the flat strip of pastry. Place it along the centre of the pastry.
Pull one side of the pastry over the filling, followed by the other. There should be a little overlap, so the dough sticks together. If you want to be sure it holds together, use a little egg wash. Gently, roll the finished fig and pastry log on the surface. Doing this will seal the edges and make sure that it is even and tight enough.
Now cut the roll into 7.5cm sections to form the cookies. If you prefer, you can make them longer and cut 4 or 5 slits along one side of each cookie. This will allow you to then bend them into a curve. Each slit will fan out to create a very attractive effect. This is the way a lot of people like to make them in Sicily. This version is known as Buccellati, which means “little bracelets”, in Sicilian.
Baking your Italian Fig cookies
If you want to, at this stage you can apply a light egg wash. This will help them to go a golden brown, but most of the time you will want to coat your cookies, so you usually do not need to do this.
Lay the cookies out on the trays and slide them into your pre-heated oven to bake for about 15 minutes. They should be golden brown when you get them out. Quickly transfer them to racks, so they can cool properly. If you leave them on the tray the bottoms will brown too much.
Once they are cool you can ice them and add some sprinkles, which is the way a lot of Sicilians(and I) like to serve them. If you prefer, dust them with confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar just before you serve them.