Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Italian "Fig Newtons"--Cucidati
Ahh the foods of childhood…
Wagon wheel shaped pasta, Dunkaroos and those cookie koala’s with the chocolate inside, Fred Flintstone popsicles, shark gummy snacks, rock candy, that rainbow stripe gum, FIG NEWTONS!
Fig newtons… In the 1980s, Nabisco produced a popular advertising slogan: “A cookie is just a cookie, but a Newton is fruit and cake.”
Stand up comedian Brian Regan comments on Fig Newtons: “I was reading a Fig Newtons label -- I've always liked them, and I was trying to see if it was OK to eat them. Everything looked pretty good, the fat content and everything. So, I'm thinking I could eat these. I looked at the serving size: two cookies. Who the hell eats two cookies? I eat Fig Newtons by the sleeve. Two sleeves is a serving size.”
While on a little family vaca. a few weeks ago, my dad told my mom, “why don’t you buy some Fig Newtons? I miss those…”
This got me thinking about homemade Fig Newtons. I got slightly sidetracked in my search for homemade Fig Newtons when I came across theBrownEyedBaker’s Italian cucidati fig cookies!
These cucidati are similar to fig newtons, but less cake-like; they have this pie feel to them…more like shortbread than mushy.
The filling is AWESOME! Better than your typical Fig Newton. It almost reminded me of a Passover “Charoset” sans apples and wine. The texture was on the ball—crunchiness comes from walnuts and the fig seeds, and a smooth sweetness from dates, prunes, honey, and jam. Next time I would roll the dough out thinner to maximize the filling-to-cookie ratio! Mmm!
These cucidati are pretty labor intensive. You first make the dough, then you knead the dough, then you refrigerate, roll it out, cut it out into little rectangles, fill it, fold, and bake. On top of that, you have the option to frost and decorate. I nixed the frosting so as to enjoy the cookies as more of a snack than a dessert.
You could always halve the recipe to save time and energy because this recipe makes A LOT of cookies!
Nevertheless, my family went bonkers over the cookies and they were gone in an instant.
Cucidati (Italian Fig Cookies)
Adapted from theBrownEyedBaker
Makes about 4 dozen
4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup butter (can also use vegetable shortening)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used my own homemade extract!)
½ cup milk (I used nonfat)
**Note: my dough came out a little bit tough, so more liquid may be needed to smooth it out! Just eyeball it and add more milk as needed!
1 cup dried figs
1 cup dates, pitted (I substituted some of the dates with a few prunes!)
¾ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts, chopped or ground in food processor
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup honey
¼ cup apricot preserves (or marmalade or a jam of your choice!)
1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar and combine well.
2. Cut in the butter and work the mixture until it looks like cornmeal. (I used my fingers and rubbed the butter into the mix, but feel free to use a fork or pastry blender!)
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, vanilla, and milk.
4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix. The dough should be soft. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, wrap each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
6. To make the filling, grind figs, dates, and raisins in a food processor until coarse. Place fig, date, and raisin mixture in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Mixture will be thick. Set aside.
7. Preheat oven to 375°F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
8. Work with one piece of dough at a time, leaving the remaining pieces in the refrigerator until needed. On a floured surface roll the dough into a thin layer. Cut dough into 2×3-inch rectangles. Spoon filling into the middle of each rectangle. Carefully fold the short edges over to meet in the center and pinch to seal. Seal the sides as well.
9. Place each cookie, seam-side down, on a baking sheet, leaving 1-2 inches between each cookie. (Optional: As an alternative to icing, you can sprinkle some raw turbinado sugar on the tops of the cookies before baking!)
10. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden in color. Remove from oven and let these babies cool!
11. If you plan to put icing on the cookies, make sure they are completely cool. You can decorate with sprinkles, too!