Each year I put aside a small container of these Sicilian specialties to be enjoyed long after the holidays have passed. As much as I enjoy the holiday season, I’ve always looked forward to the New Year with anticipation of things to come. New projects, new adventures, new beginnings, new people that will come into our lives. But when the last Christmas decoration is tucked away, and the house is quiet … too quiet, I take out my container of Cuccidati. Curled up in a big cozy chair, a cup of coffee in hand, I count my many blessings and reminisce of holidays past and of life itself … and I am grateful. In the event any family members are reading this and I may have told you that ALL the Cuccidati were gone … OOPS! my bad.
This recipe is in two parts: the filling and the cookie dough. Make the filling a few days ahead. Make the dough when you are ready to bake the cookies
- 7 pounds dried figs
- 2.5 pounds raisins
- 1 pound dates
- 8oz. citron
- 8 oz candied lemon or orange peel (I used lemon)
- 2 pounds walnuts
- 1 cup Marsala wine
- 16oz light karo syrup
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 pound chocolate pieces (I use dark chocolate bars/you could use choc.chips)
- 1 cup strong black coffee***
Put dried and candied fruits through grinder. Next, I grind the walnuts and chocolate together to keep the mixer from clogging up and melting the chocolate. All done? Great! Now, grind it all again. (I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer with the grinder attachment)
In a large bowl with the filling, add the Marsala, syrup, nutmeg and mix very well.
This may look like a cutting board but it’s actually a very very large wooden bowl. It is so large I often joke that I used it to bath my son when he was a baby. It’s that big, but I didn’t … really.
Now make a pot of strong coffee…have a cup or two. Even when I wasn’t old enough to reach the counter, my grandmother always made a cup of coffee for me too(of course there was more milk than coffee)
***To tell you the truth, I can’t remember if we just drank the coffee or we put it in the filling. I do, however, put it in. I think the heat from the hot coffee helps mix the ingredients. The coffee is the last ingredient to add to the filling, mix well.
Cover & let mellow for several days.
The filling makes enough for approx. 15 wreaths (7-8”) and a couple batches of cookies.
Makes about 84 cookies
(I think I made 5 or 6 batches for all the filling, I lost count!)
- 5 cups flour
- 2 T baking powder
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup Crisco
- 3 eggs
- 1 T vanilla
- ¾ whole milk
Make the dough:
- Cut Crisco and butter into flour, sugar and baking powder. (I do this in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the whisk attachment).
- Make a well into flour mixture, add eggs, vanilla and milk. (Now, I take off the whisk attachment and use the paddle).
- Mix until well blended. Tear off chunk of dough.
- Roll into strips about 12”long-4”wide-3/8”thick.
Add the filling to the dough:
Now it is time to decide between cookies and a wreath.
Cut the dough log diagonally. Bake @350 degrees-approx. 17-18 minutes until very, barely lightly golden (not brown).
Decorate the completed cookies.
Mix 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons whole milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla until smooth and there are no lumps. Ice a few at a time and sprinkle with (nonpareils).
Store at room temperature in airtight container or wrap well and freeze. ENJOY!
For a wreath
Shape rope into circle.
Cut slits into the dough and place it on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Fan the slits out slightly.
Bake @350 degrees-approx. 20 min. until very lightly golden (not brown)