Every so often, my mom digs up a gem of a recipe from my grandmother. More often than not, those recipes conjure up vivid memories of my childhood, but sometimes they only spark a vague recollection ... that is, until I taste them. That was the case with these cookies, which my mom brought up out of nowhere a few months ago and I finally made on Christmas Eve.
The timing was appropriate, as they're sometimes called Italian Christmas Cookies. I've also heard them referred to as Italian Fig Cookies, Sicilian Dried Fruit and Nut Cookies, and I've even seen versions called Fruit and Walnut Pillows. But these delectable little treats are authentically known as cuccidati. I couldn't find the origin of the word, and not being a speaker of Italian I can barely pronounce it. So let's just go with this ... they're basically Italian Fig Newtons, frosted. And they're amazing.
I don't know why I didn't remember these cookies, because according to my mom, my grandma made them often. I turned to The Google to jog my memory (which was quite a feat - I had no idea how to spell cuccidati and my mom was pronouncing it like the Italian she is). When I finally figured it out and stumbled across a photo, it started coming back to me. Those multi-colored sprinkles are immediately recognizable and should be unforgettable. But it wasn't until I finally bit into one that I remembered them from Christmas' past.
Cuccidati (Italian Fig Cookies)
For the Filling
1 cup dried figs
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup corn syrup
Zest of 1 lemon
For the Dough
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
For the Icing
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Make filling by pulsing all filling ingredients in a food processor until nearly smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove filling to a small bowl and set aside. Clean food processor bowl.
Make dough by mixing butter and sugar in food processor until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, and milk. Add salt, baking powder, and flour and pulse until dough comes together in a ball. Dough will be soft.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper. Freeze until dough is firm enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2x3-inch squares. Place a scant tablespoon of filling in center of each square and fold the right edge, then left edge over filling (like you're folding a letter). Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, setting slightly apart.
Bake until cookies are lightly browned, about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Make icing by stirring confectioners' sugar with lemon juice, adding a bit of water to adjust consistency if necessary (it should be a bit more paste-like than glaze-like, but not as thick as a frosting). When cookies are cooled completely, spoon icing over each and decorate with multi-colored sprinkles (and yes, they must be multi-colored otherwise they're not authentic cuccidati).