I have been most erratic with baking along with 'TWD : Baking with Julia', these past few months. With the year drawing to a close, I think I still have some time to catch up with a few of the interesting ones I missed out on. For instance, I have had my eye on these X-cookies, ever since I bought the book, last year.
Turns out these fig stuffed, hand-shaped cookies originate from Sicily. The distinctive X-shape that this batch has, is contributing baker, Nick Maglieri's, special touch in shaping these cookies. Apparently, for Sicilians all over the world, there is no Christmas without cucidati.
The dominant ingredient in the stuffing is figs. The rest you can take liberties with. My filling was much like Nick's, except that I replaced the apricot preserve with some homemade strawberry jam that I had lying around in the fridge.
The biscuit that holds this filling is a buttery, short-crusty kind of pastry. Both the components can be made in a processor, so there is nothing tedious about it.
My issue was with the time consuming process involved in filling and then shaping these cookies. If anything, while working with these cookies, I had a vision of a Sicilian Nonna, sitting around with her friends, shaping these cookies while they indulged in a round of gossip and match making. As you might have guessed, this recipe is definitely not for those short on time or patience!!
But, if you manage to get through that tedious process, rest assured, the fruits of your labour will have many admirers. You will definitely taste the figs but the rest of the filling has a complexity that will not be easily distinguishable. The entire sweetness comes from the dried fruits, as there is no sugar added to the filling. That ensures that there is no cloying sweet after taste.
Give it a day or two, and the flavours meld and mature beautifully together and if you are discerning enough, you might get a hint of the alcohol used. The pastry that encases is buttery and a perfect foil for the filling.
These cookies are traditionally made for Christmas. If you have it in you to put yourself through the time consuming process of making these cookies, for your platter at home, you can be sure that these will be the star of the show!!
Cucidati | X-Cookies
Recipe Source : 'Baking with Julia'
Makes about five dozen cookies
Makes about five dozen cookies
For the Dough:
For the Dough:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces cold unsalted butter or 1/2 pound cold lard, cut into pieces
- 4 large eggs
- One 12-ounce package dried figs
- 1/2 cup unblanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup apricot preserves (I used strawberry jam)
- 1/4 cup plump golden raisins
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup dark rum (one can also use orange juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large egg beaten with a pinch of salt, for egg wash
- Confectioner's sugar, for dusting
- Put flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse just to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse 20 times. Add eggs and pulse until dough forms a ball on the blade. Remove from processor and knead briefly on a lightly floured work surface until smooth. Shape dough into a log and wrap in plastic.
- Remove stems from figs and cut the figs into medium-size dice. (If the figs are hard, soak them in hot water for ten minutes. That will soften them). Put figs and remaining filling ingredients into the food processor and pulse with the metal blade until finely chopped. Scrape filling onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead to blend it, and shape it into a rough log. Cut the log into 12 pieces.
- Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough under your hands to form a 12-inch rope. Use a rolling pin to roll the rope into a 3- by 12-inch rectangle. Run a blunt knife under the dough to make certain it hasn't stuck to the work surface and brush the top of the dough with egg wash.
- Roll a piece of filling into a 12-inch rope and centre it on the rolled-out dough. Pull the dough up around the filling, making a seam, and roll it into a cylinder, about 15 inches long. Cut into 3-inch lengths.
- Place a cut piece of dough vertically in front of you, seam side down, and make two 1-inch-long cuts, one from the bottom, the other from the top, toward the centre. Use your fingers to separate the slashes and create an X-shaped cookie.
- Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking pans and repeat with the remaining portions of dough and filling.
- Bake cookies for 15 minutes, or until a light golden colour. Transfer to racks to cool. Just before serving, dust with confectioner's sugar.