Sheri Mignano, of Petaluma, California
Handed down in her Sicilian family from Borgetto
Click here for the pdf version: recipe_Cuccidati
The Cuccidati is a traditional Sicilian fig bar associated with St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th but it is always found on the winter holiday dessert menu of every Sicilian home. There are as many ways to make this recipe as there are Sicilian cooks; each region adds certain ingredients. It’s your choice! Keep in mind that the total number of actual fig (finger-length) bars is based on the size you cut and how plump. Usual width is about ¾. How you decide to roll the dough (like a calzone) or just in a long tubular shape is also your choice. Sicilian Americans pronounce it as * “Goo-chee-dah-deez”. Cuccidate refers to one piece or the entire filled “cookie.” Recipe: 8 dozen bars + depending on thickness.
Filling: Keep proportions equal. 1 lb.-3 lbs. chopped Mission (dark) figs (I prefer more figs). 1 lb. golden or mixed raisins* 1 lb. dates (Sal Rizzo says this is the Arabic influence). 1 C chopped walnuts (or 2 cups if you don’t use almonds) 1 C chopped almonds* (toast them first) BTW, they tend to overshadow the flavor. 1 pt. glazed mixed fruit* 1 C honey (more if you prefer sweeter filling). Watch out, the dates are already sweet. 1 C orange (zest rind of one large orange & grind the rest). ½ C brandy
Seasonings: lots of debate on how much. 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp cloves 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp black pepper Chop or grind all dry fruits, orange, and nuts with the other ingredients. I let it sit in the refrigerator for a day. If filling is too stiff, soften with hot water when ready to spread it.
Pastry: 6-8 C flour 2 C Crisco* (half margarine/butter) Cut in as you would pie crust. 1-2 C sugar 2-3 tsp baking powder 1 tsp salt
Mix (in a mixer) above ingredients until smooth; then add: 3-4 lg. eggs 1 ½ tsp. vanilla & ½ C milk (or vanilla soy)
Icing: ½ C-1C powdered sugar (confectioners ½ tbsp lemon juice 3-4 tblsp. water Multicolored cake-decorating sprinkles
Directions: Roll out dough to 1/8 or ¼ thick on floured board. Cut into 4” wide strips. On one half side of strip, spread filling. Fold over dough halfway to cover filling. Pinch along the edge. Slice filled strips into 1” slices at a long diagonal—just as you would if you were cutting biscotti. Repeat!!! Place long strips on greased baking sheets 1” apart and bake until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. I find that it’s usually closer to 45— depends on thickness of filling & crust!Oven Temp: 350 degrees (I prefer 375) While cooling on a rack, combine the icing ingredients and spread a thin, smooth glaze of icing, and sprinkle.
Sources and Variations:
Mary Taylor Semeti’s Pomp and Circumstances (Sicilian traditions). She says that the Cuccidata is in a round, wreathe-like shape. Semeti’s On Persepone’s Island is a great introduction to Sicilian traditions in agriculture among other topics.
Aunt Nina says that my Nonna (Giraloma) and Great Grandmother Steffy cut the cuccidati into animal shapes. Aunt Connie’s recipe seems to be based on Aunt Fray’s version. This combined recipe dictates putting in all seasonings, and filling the dough to the edges, pressing down and cooking as a whole; then, cutting them up after they are iced and cooled down completely. This implies putting the seam-side down on the cookie sheet.
Sal Rizzo (Sicilian fellow from Bagheria) preheats oven to 400 degrees, rolls everything out, cuts it all before baking, and keeps the filling simple (no dates and no almonds).
Warning! Allow a couple of days to make these and avoid what Aunt Fray would do: drinking too much brandy while cooking. It can cause problems in the results! Let me know how it turns out! Buon Natale & Buon Capo d’Anno!