The micro-regionality of Italian life is mind blowing. Take for example, regional dialects which until recently varied drastically every few kilometers and often divided villages. In the southewestern region of Calabria near Bagnara Calabra a handful of regional dialects are still spoken and while the 4-5 villages comprising the Comune di Bagnara Calabra (RC) are separated by only 3-5 kilometers you’d be hard pressed to recognize any similarities between, say, the dialect of the Bagnarese from the villagers in Pellegrina or Ceramida.
Thus, micro-regionality is a big theme in Italian life and it cuts across varying areas such as language, culture, and food. Cuccidati, or Sicilian Fig Cookies, is a further example of the aforementioned principle. For many Italian-Americans who have ancestors hailing from Sicilia, the Cuccidati cookie is a standard Christmas time tradition. However, for many Italians with Calabrian roots the Cuccidati may as well be a chocolate chip cookie as the Sicilian cookie filled with figs, dates, raisins, and nuts and tucked into a sweet dough is a foreign food. The lack of a Cuccidati cookie baking tradition surprises many but it’s a good example of how dishes and food still vary from region to region (and, at times, from village to village) in southern Italy.
The following Cuccidati recipe hails from a Sicilian neighbor; she was also kind enough to share the cookies in the accompanying photos (thank you Karen!).
- 10 ounces - 1 pound chopped walnuts
- 8 - 10 ounces chopped hazelnuts
- 8 - 10 ounces chopped almonds
- 40 ounces dried figs
- 30 ounces (2 large boxes) dark raisins
- 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 12 cups flour
- 12 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 bars softened margarine
- 12 eggs
- 6 teaspoons vanilla
- Roast chopped nuts in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Be careful not to burn nuts. Set nuts aside to cool. Soak figs in warm water until soft. Drain softened figs. Remove stems and cut in quarters. Grind figs and raisins in food processor. Bring 4 cups water and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Mix sugar water into fig and raisin mixture. Allow mixture to cool and then add cooled roasted nuts. When mixture is completely cool, stir in chocolate. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Let stand at room temperature for at least a couple of hours before assembling the cookies. It will be easier to handle.
- Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add bars of margarine and mix until the dough is crumbly. Beat eggs and vanilla. Add eggs and vanilla to dry ingredients little by little while working the dough. Work the dough until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. A small amount of milk can be added if the dough seems dry. I mix the dough by hand, but a food processor can be used. I wrap the dough in saran wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Roll the dough into long strips about 2 inches wide. Place filling along strips of dough. Fold sides of dough up and pinch to close. Cut strips into desired shapes. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 to 375 for a total of 20 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes on the middle rack and for another ten minutes on the top rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
- This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you might want to make only a half or a third of this amount.