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It’s not Christmas for us without these amazing Italian fig cookies (aka Sicilian cuccidati). They’re made with a thin pastry filled with a fragrant mixture of figs, toasted almonds, dark chocolate, cinnamon and orange zest. The combination of flavors and textures is incredible!
They also keep well for weeks making a special Christmas treat to share with family and friends.
This Sicily’s best-known cuccidati recipe comes from my mum, still it took me so long to share it: truth be told, my aim has been to post recipes as simple as possible, and I tried to avoid icing and sprinkles.
But these Italian Christmas cookies are so close to my heart, and this year I just couldn’t refrain myself from posting the recipe.
The name, shapes and filling of these fabulous fig cookies have many variations. They’re called cuccidati, cucidati, or buccelati and traditionally they’re stuffed with dried fruits (figs, sometimes dates or sultanas), nuts, candied fruit, and spices.
They are reminiscent of fig cookies, but in reality they’re so rich and so complex that their flavor can be world apart.
Not to brag, but my mum tweaked her recipe to perfection over the years: no fig jam or sultanas were allowed in the filling, but only soft dried figs for a more luxurious, special treat.
My family used to bake literally a ton of cuccidati before Christmas in a BIG baking day where everyone helped. Baking, decorating, and wrapping these goodies for friends was obviously part of the fun.
This Christmas, make sure to bake a big batch of these beautiful cookies, and share the love!
What you need for the pastry
- All-purpose flour
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
Once you get the ingredients, follow this recipe to make the shortcrust pastry!
What you need for the fig cookie filling
- Soft dried figs (no added sugar)
- Dark chocolate (70% or 85% cocoa)
- Roasted almonds
- Orange peel and zest
For the decoration the recipe requires (optional, but lovely): one pasteurized egg white, powdered sugar, and sprinkles!
How to make fig cookies
(Note: this is a quick description with step-by-step photos, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)
- Start making the shortcrust pastry dough following this recipe.
- While the pastry chills in the fridge, toast the almonds in the oven.
- Chop the chocolate, the almonds, and whizz the figs in a food processor.
- Using your hands mix all the ingredients for the filling until well combined.
- Roll out with a rolling pin a piece of pastry into a long rectangular shape.
- Shape the fig filling like a long sausage and place it in the centre of the pastry.
- Fold each side of pastry carefully. I use a pizza scraper which is very useful to gently lift the shortcrust pastry.
- When you’ve folded the pastry on both sides, gently press the log and place the seam side down.
- With a sharp knife cut the fig cookies (approx. 2×3 inches each).
- Place them on a large cookie sheet and bake for 17 minutes at 170°C/340°F.
How to decorate fig cookies (cuccidati)
- You make Royal icing by beating the egg white until very pale but not stiff yet. I use an electric hand mixer, and the whole thing takes me a couple of minutes.
- Then add the powdered sugar and beat until very thick but creamy (like the picture below).
- Gently dip each fig cookie upside down into the glaze (you want to cover with icing only the top). No worries, they don’t have to be perfect!
- Turn the cookie up again (it should be nicely coated), and place it on a rack.
- Decorate them immediately with sprinkles.
- Let them rest on a cookie rack until the glaze is completely dry. It takes approximately 1 hour, but that depends on the humidity of the room.
Recipe notes & tips
Ingredients for fig cookies
Sweet shortcrust pastry: traditionally, in the Italian fig cookies (cuccidati) the shortcrust pastry is made with shortening. But I obviously turned them in a vegetarian recipe and I use only butter. This sweet shortcrust recipe is so easy to work with and you can make in seconds with a food processor.
Figs: many recipes use fig jam instead of dried figs, other use sultanas.
But let me state the obvious: soft figs, naturally sweet and without additives, are the best ingredients and give the best result. Yes, my mum was right. : )
Almonds: roast them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes (340F/170C) until they get golden and slightly crunchy. Don’t skip this step, roasted almonds are a must in the recipe: they break it or make it.
Dark chocolate: I use 85% dark chocolate for a deep, intense flavor, I LOVE that contrast with the sweet filling. But feel free to use good-quality 70% dark chocolate bar or chips.
Orange peel and zest: Italians use candied fruit (canditi, in Italian), especially orange, pumpkin, and citron with its thick, flavorful rind. But I’ve been using orange peel for ages, and it works well.
Cinnamon: for a cozy, warming flavor.
Honey: it adds sweetness and brings the filling together into a sticky paste that tastes delicious. Many recipes call for jam, but honey is definitely much better.
Decoration: my family’s recipe uses Royal icing, it looks very festive and perfect for the holidays, but you’re welcome to decorate the cuccidati with your favorite sugar glaze recipe or simple powdered sugar.
- Work in small batches: make one long log, place the filling, fold the pastry, cut the cookies and place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
- Keep the shortcrust pastry cold: making one log at time allows to keep the rest of the shortcrust pastry refrigerated. if you keep it on the counter (especially if the oven is on), the room temperature will make it warm and hard to work with.
- Bake them until golden pale (not brown) and let them cool.
How to store them?
These amazing fig cookies keep very well. Store them in an airtight container or in a metal tin and they last for up to 4 weeks. My mum used to make cucciddati at the beginning of December and we happily shared them with family and friends till the end of the Christmas holidays. : )
Looking for more Christmas cookies?
You might want to have a look at this collection of 20 delicious Christmas cookies! Here are a few of our favorite recipes:
If you make these Italian fig cookies, or if you have a question, let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you! x
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Fig Cookies (Italian cucciddati)
- 2 cups (9oz/250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 9 Tbsp (4oz/125 grams) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (3oz/80 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 medium-sized egg
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups (340 grams) soft dried figs
- 1 cup (150 grams) Roasted almonds
- (5oz/150 grams) dark chocolate bar or chips ( 70% or 85% cocoa are best)
- (4oz/120 grams) orange peel
- (4oz/120 grams) honey
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 small orange zest (approx 1 Tbsp)
Decoration (Royal icing)
- 1 pasteurised egg white (medium size), at room temperature
- 1 cup (approx 120-130 grams) powdered sugar (icing sugar if you're in the UK)
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- coloured sprinkles, to decorate
- Follow this recipe to make the shortcrust pastry dough. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Spread out the almonds onto a baking tray and roast them in the preheated oven at 170°C/340°F for about 8-10 minutes. Turn the oven off.
- Snip off the hard stems from the soft figs and process them in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer the fig mixture in a large mixing bowl.
- With a chef knife chop the chocolate and the roasted almonds. Alternatively, place them in a food processor and pulse a few times until they are roughly chopped. Add them to the mixing bowl.
- Then add the rest of the ingredients listed for the filling. Using your hands, mix them thoroughly until well combined. Set aside.
Shape the cookies
- Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using a sharp knife, divide the shortcrust pastry dough into 4 equal pieces (cut them lenghtwise, so you get long pieces which are easier to work with). Start using 1 of them, and keep the other 3 pieces refrigerated.
- Dust the working surface with some flour, then roll the pastry dough out until you get a rectangle that measures approx 11×5 inches (30x14cm).
- Using moistened hands, grab some fig filling from the bowl and make a long log, place it in the center of the pastry strip. Fold each side of the pastry, seal them with a gentle pressure, and finally turn the long log upside down in order to have the seam side down.
- With a sharp knife, cut the log into 10 cookies (4 logs should make approx 40 pieces). Place them on the baking sheet with parchment paper, repeat the same with the rest of the ingredients. You should be able to bake 2 logs (approx 20 cookies) at a time using the same baking sheet, 2 batches in total.
- Bake and let the fig cookies to cool down on a rack.
- Using an electric mixer beat the egg white in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar gradually, lemon juice, and keep beating for 3-4 minutes until you get a thick consistency. Use it immediately.
- Drizzle the fig cookies with the icing or turn each cookie upside down and gently dip into the sugar. You want to cover only the top.
- Decorate immediately with coloured sprinkles and let them rest.
These were always a staple in our house at Christmas. We would sit around the kitchen table and help my mom make them. After she passed away my oldest son started this tradition until he passed away 8 years ago. As with my mom my children made it a family affair. Our families all received a share of these wonderful delicious fig Christmas cookies made with real figs. Many fond memories.😊🌹
What a lovely comment, Joanne! I have the same feeling and fond memories. We used to make these fig cookies with my parents, and when I was a child I was in charge for the decoration.
My sisters and I want to keep this tradition alive and we make them with our children. They’re the best cookies in the world, if you ask me. : )
Wishing a wonderful holiday season. Greetings from London. x