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Italian fig cookies, also known as cuccidati, are a one of a kind traditional Italian cookie! The filling is made with a fragrant mix of dried figs, raisins, walnuts, apricot jam, and a blend of warm spices. The cookie is wrapped in a soft, pastry-like dough, then topped with icing and nonpareil sprinkles. Italian fig cookies are the perfect cookies to make for Christmas and the holidays.
This has become one of my favorite Italian recipes on my blog, I can't wait to share this recipe with you!
What are Italian Fig Cookies?
These cookies go by several names. Italian fig cookies, buccellati, cuccidati (pronounced "cooch-i-da-ti", sometimes spelled cucidati), Sicilian fig cookies, and Italian Christmas cookies.
No matter what you call them, these delicious cookies are a cozy and festive treat!
These delightful fruit filled cookies taste similar to a Fig Newton, but all grown up.
Italian fig cookie recipes often contain similar ingredients. Walnuts, apricots (either whole or as jam), honey, raisins and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and sometimes anise seeds are used to create a very flavorful filling.
The filling is wrapped in a flaky, buttery, pastry dough and baked until lightly golden brown.
Then, they are topped with a simple icing and classic rainbow sprinkles that you find on other traditional Italian cookies, like Ricotta Cookies.
What is in the filling?
The dried fruit filling is very jammy and sweet.
My recipe for Italian fig cookies filling is made from dried figs, raisins, walnuts, apricot jam, orange zest and assorted spices. All the ingredients are pureed into a thick paste and rolled up inside a flaky cookie dough.
It is very easy to make and offers a lovely depth of flavor. You can definitely add other ingredients, like the ones mentioned above (honey, anise, etc.), but I found that my recipe is nicely balanced and well rounded.
Filling Flavors & Texture
This is a very fruity filling with lots of richness and harmony from all of the ingredients.
The warmth of the ground cinnamon and nutmeg, combined with the aromatic freshness of the orange will take you right into holiday mode.
After baking, the paste thickens up even more into a candy-like jam. It's chewy and even though it is completely pureed, you also get some crunch from nuts and the seeds found inside figs.
Don't skip the orange zest –
I've found the orange zest to be a key ingredient in this cookie recipe. It adds just the right amount of brightness and freshness to the fig filling. It is aromatic and gives the Italian fig cookies a bright flavor.
The combination of orange, spices and dried fruit is nothing short of magical.
Types of dried figs
You don't want to use fresh figs for these cookies (I just added some in the scene for interest!)
The fig filling for these cookies should be made with Turkish or Smyrna dried figs. They really are best.
One interesting thing that I learned about while developing this recipe was the fact that dried figs often form a sugary, crystallized, outer coating.
At first, it looks like they are spoiled but it's totally fine and safe to eat! The crystallized sugar is actually very flavorful, but can be rinsed off with water if you want.
Italian fig cookies can also be made without figs. You can substitute dried dates, more raisins or dried cranberries for the figs.
Any dried fruit would work great with this recipe!
It would no doubt be delicious but would make them less traditional.
The First Step to Making Italian Fig Cookies
The first step is to create the filling.
This can be done by grinding dried Italian figs, raisins, walnuts and apricot jam in a food processor until it becomes smooth. The mixture should look deliciously moist
The second step is to make the dough for Italian Fig Cookies.
How to Make the Dough
This fig cookie dough is kind of interesting. It's almost like a cross between regular cookie dough and pastry dough.
It's not like any cookie recipe I've ever made, and it's not like any dough recipe I've ever made!
It's not as airy as regular pastry dough, but it is VERY light and flaky.
It starts off with your usual ingredients, but the butter is added mid-way and is worked into the flour mixture similarly to a pastry dough.
You can do this a few ways.
I prefer to simply use a box cheese grater.
It makes it so much easier to incorporate the butter, and it distributes the butter more evenly.
After the butter is added, the wet ingredients go in. You'll need to add water at the end, but avoid adding too much as it will make the dough too wet and sticky.
After the dough forms, let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour, it needs to be rolled out on a floured surface.
How to Form the Cookies
The next steps are to roll the dough into a rectangle shape.
Add the filling and roll the dough over it.
I do not recommend using any remaining dough or trimmings as the texture tends to change once it's rolled out.
Traditional Italian Cookies
If you're Italian, there's a good chance that your mother or grandmother made cuccidati cookies in the kitchen.
Cuccidati are Italian fig cookies and they have been around for generations. You can find them during most Italian holidays, such as Christmas time when Italians make them with dried figs which symbolize fertility and rebirth at this time of year.
As an added bonus, Italian fig cookies are very easy to make, they just take a bit of time to prepare!
Can You Freeze the Cookies?
Italian fig cookies are best eaten fresh but can be frozen for up to two months.
Italian Fig Cookies are Perfect to add to your Christmas Traditions
People love Italian fig cookies for their simplicity, but also because they are usually served during the holiday season.
They’re perfect as an after-dinner dessert or something to nibble on while you watch your favorite Christmas movies!
Italian Fig Cookies can easily become part of your Christmas tradition.
I hope you enjoy these cookies! They are sure to give you a taste of Italy and tradition!
For the Filling
- 12 oz dried figs (about 20 whole figs, stems removed)
- ¾ c raisins (check for stems)
- ¾ c walnuts
- ⅓ c apricot preserves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- Zest of 1 medium orange
For the Dough
- 3 ½ c all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¾ c granulated sugar
- 1 c cold butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ - ¾ c water
For the Icing
- 1 c powdered sugar/confectioners sugar
- 1 Tbsp milk
- Rainbow nonpareil sprinkles
For the Filling
- In the bowl of a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the filling. Pulse until a smooth, thick paste forms. All ingredients should be very well blended and there should be no large pieces of fruit or nuts.
- Cover and set aside.
For the Dough
- To make the dough, start by adding the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl.
- Whisk together until combined.
- Using a box grater, shred the cold butter over a small piece of parchment paper. (see notes)
- Add the butter into the bowl of dry ingredients and gently toss the shredded butter until coated.
- In a small bowl, add the eggs and beat slightly with a fork. Add the vanilla extract and stir.
- Pour the egg mixture into the flour and butter mixture.
- Add the water, starting with ½ cup. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the flour (a Danish whisk works well here).
- If the dough is looking dry, add a little more water. Be careful not to add too much - the dough should never become wet or sticky.
- Using your hands, begin to bring the dough together into a large ball.
- Wrap the ball in a piece of plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Making the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Add the fig filling to a piping bag or large plastic zip lock bag. Cut a ½" opening at the tip of the bag.
- When ready, prepare a surface for rolling the dough. Take a portion of dough and place it on a well floured surface.
- Roll the dough to ⅛" thick in a long rectangle shape that is at least 5-6" wide.
- Using as sharp knife, trim the dough to approximately 5-6" wide and 10-12" long. It's OK if the dough is not as long - width is really most important here.
- Leaving a ½" edge on the side of the dough, pipe the filling down the full length of the dough area.
- With floured hands, use the edge to roll the dough over the piped fig mixture until it meets the other side of the dough surface.
- Cut along the seam and pull the roll away from the remaining rolled dough.
- Rotate the cookie roll so that the seam is on the bottom. Gently press to seal.
- Cut into 1 ½" pieces.
- Repeat steps 6 - 10 with the remaining rolled dough. For the second roll, there may be a small amount of excess dough on the edge, which should be trimmed.
- Place cookies onto the prepared baking sheet. Leave about 1 ½ inch of space in between each cookie.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until very lightly golden brown.
- Let set on the tray for 5 minutes than transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.
- While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze.
- In a small bowl combine the powdered sugar and milk until completely smooth.
- Add the icing to a piping bag or zip lock bag. Cut a small amount off the tip.
- Drizzle the icing on top of the cookies without letting it drip down the sides showing the fig filling.
- Top with colored sprinkles such as rainbow nonpareils.
Recipe by Owlbbaking.com
I find using a box grater to shred the butter is easiest. If you don't have a box grater or you'd like to use a more traditional method, feel free to add the cold butter into the flour mixture by hand or by using a food processor. You can cut in the butter by cutting it into small pieces and working it into the flour by using a pastry blender. With a food processor, cut the butter into small pieces and pulse with the flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs.
These cookies can be made a couple of days in advance but note, the color of the sprinkles will begin to bleed into the icing over time. If you need to make these further in advance, freeze the cookies (un-iced) and ice the day of.
Dried figs often form a sugary, crystallized, outer coating. It's totally fine and safe to eat! The crystallized sugar is actually very flavorful, but can be rinsed off with water if you want.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Chill Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 18 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Italian fig cookies, cuccidati, cucidati, Sicilian, Christmas cookies, fig cookies, holiday cookies, Italian Christmas cookies, traditional, authentic, dried figs