After you’ve tried the authentic Italian rum cake recipe, here’s another one that would surely give you another onslaught of the munchies: Italian fig cookies.
Now, when you talk about Italian cuisine, you can’t escape from also mentioning all the yummy breads and pastries from each region. In Sicily, for instance, among the most popular food associated to the island is the cannolo, which you may recognize more in its plural form “cannoli.”
The pastry’s fame may be partly because of the Hollywood film The Godfather and the eternal lines from the character named Peter Clemenza “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Of course, you can’t blame the consuming public from falling in love with Sicilian pastries because many of them are quite scrumptious and simply unforgettable.
Case in point, aside from cannoli, there are also the often colorfully sprinkled Italian fig cookies. What exactly are we talking about? Continue reading and find out.
Some culinary experts say that the modern Italian fig cookies actually come from way back to the time of the Roman Empire, and that the recipe is an offshoot from the Roman pastry called panificatus. Another story is that one of this pastry’s many names, particularly buccellati, come from the Latin buccellatum, which some say means “bites.”
Whichever of them may be true, one thing is for sure, these special fig cookies have been part of Italian weddings, Christmases, and other special occasions for many Italian households for centuries.
Italian fig cookies, which many may think are like Fig Newtons (they’re not!), come in so many names. In some areas, they call them cuccidati or cucidati. In other areas they are called cuddureddi while in others still they are called buccellati.
For many in the United States, they are also called x-cookies, courtesy of the iconic Julia Child and pastry chef Nick Malgieri. All these cookies are derivatives of the Sicilian fig cookies but they just come in different sizes and shapes.
Actually, there’s not much difference to the two. Both are traditional Italian cookies, are often served for special occasions, and are filled with figs, nuts, and raisins. So how different are they really?
Well, cuccidati are traditional fig cookies from Italy. They are quite popular in the southern regions, especially in the autonomous island-region of Sicily.
They are often baked for special occasions such as weddings or Christmas. As a matter of fact, there are stories that the day before Christmas in Sicily, butchers in meat shops would clean up their grinding machines so that anyone in the town who wants to make cuccidati could bring their figs and raisins and have them ground up there.
Whether that service was for free or not though, was not mentioned. But hey, just goes to show that making cuccidati for Christmas was such an important tradition that businesses were willing to give way for the townspeople to be able to make scrumptious fig filling for these cookies. Right?
Now, Italian X-Cookies are equally popular pastries in Sicily, as well as in the Calabria region. In the US, however, it was made popular by pastry chef Nick Malgieri in Julia Child’s pastry book Baking with Julia. They are especially popular as festive Christmas treats because of their colorful sprinkles. Or because of “x” in “X-mas”?
Well, the recipe for these particular cookies have more or less the same ingredients and baking instructions as cuccidati, with the shape of the baked cookies the only considerable difference. As a matter of fact, you can make both cuccidati and X-cookies at the same time using only one recipe.
You just do something extra for the X-cookies to turn them into “x” shapes. How to make the cookies into “x” shapes though? Well, after you slice the already filled dough crosswise, take each piece and slash each end. Then, slightly open each cut to form an “x” before you slide the cookies into the oven to bake.
Whatever you call them, cuccidati, X-cookies, or simply Italian fig cookies, and whichever version you follow, here’s one that could very well deliciously satisfy those pastry cravings you may probably have now.
If you think you have made too much dough and filling you can keep them in the refrigerator and bake them for another day. However, they don’t have the same shelf life. The dough may only last up to 4 days while the filling can last up to 7 days. You can also opt to bake all the cookies and store them in an airtight container, and they will last up to 10 days. If you want the cookies to have a longer shelf life, freeze them before putting them in an airtight container, and they will last up to a month.
Other Italian traditional Christmas treats: