Monday, 19 December 2016

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Oh, here is that stray cookie recipe that almost got away! These are a traditional Italian cookie, and they are like glamorous and much more interesting Fig Newtons. The instructions are a bit detailed but really, they are probably easier than rolled and cut cookies. Make the filling, make the dough, wrap, slice, bake, eat. Perfect! They seem to be keeping pretty well too.

These are not the sweetest cookies ever. Some people brush a little glaze over them. I didn't but if you wanted to, just thin 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and about a tablespoon of milk. Brush it on with a pastry brush, adding a little more milk if it stiffens up before you can get it onto them - that's a hint; you should work quickly.

72 cookies
1 hour 30 minutes prep time - plus1 hour chill time

Cucidata - Italian Fig Cookies

Make the Filling:
1 cup chopped figs
1 cup raisins
1 cup mixed candied peel
the finely grated zest of 1 large navel orange
the juice of 1 large navel orange (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup rum or brandy
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Trim the stems from the figs, and chop the figs. Put them in a pot with the remaining filling ingredients, and bring them to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed - check carefully during the last few minutes. Let cool.

Put the filling into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped and cohesive. Turn out into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Make the Dough:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups soft  (pastry) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract.

Mix the soda into the flour, then stir it into the butter and egg mixture. The dough will be quite stiff; at some point I find it easiest to abandon my spoon and mix the dough with my hands. Do not over-knead it, however. 

Wrap the dough in parchment or plastic and chill it for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough evenly into 3 parts. Roll out each section on parchment paper, to form a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper (8.5" x 11"). Trim and patch the dough to make it as neat a rectangle as possible. The dough is very putty-like, and will patch together nicely. When you have your rectangle, cut it in half across the longest way, to form 2 sections of about 4" x 11".

Divide the filling equally into 6 parts. Using wet hands, form one part into a long rope, the length of one of the pieces of dough, that is, 11". I do this on the parchment paper next to the rectangle of dough. I then use a thin metal icing spatula to loosen it and lift it onto the centre of the strip of dough. Use the spatula to loosen the dough from the parchment as well. Fold up the sides of the dough to form a tube around the filling, and transfer it to one of the prepared pans, seam-side down. Cut the filled tube of dough into 12 equal sections and spread them out, at least an inch apart in every direction.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, forming 6 filled tubes of dough in total. If the dough gets warm and sticky as you roll it out, you can sprinkle it and the rolling pin with a little icing sugar to help keep it dry. However, if it is too soft and warm for that to work you may need to return the dough to the fridge for a few minutes.

When you have half the cookies prepared and laid out on one of the baking sheets, bake them for 12 to 15 minutes until very lightly browned and firm. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Let cool and store in a tightly covered tin, in a cool spot.

Last year at this time I made Chai Honey Butter

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