Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cucidati (Italian Christmas Cookies)

I learned how to make these cookies by taking an Italian Christmas Cookies class. The instructor was named Dora, and her website can be found by clicking here. She was born in Italy and now teaches many different Italian cooking classes in my area.

Dora explained that the filling is different in each region of Italy, so I decided to play around with the filling recipe she gave us to come up with my own. I actually left out the figs, which are generally the main ingredient in the filling. Below is what I came up with for the filling, but I also tried using the fruit varieties of Solo Baking and Pastry Filling, and those worked out as well. I guess the moral of the story is: Try whatever filling you'd like.

Still more Christmas Cookie recipes to come this week. Tomorrow I'll post a quick way to "dress up" your Rice Krispie Treats for the holidays. Then on Wednesday or Thursday I'll post my mom's rum ball recipe. Finally, I've got a recipe for Eggnog Cups, a delicious little cream-filled cookie if you like the drink. I'll post those next Sunday, in plenty of time for New Year's Eve.

(Italian Christmas Cookies)

Ingredients for dough:
2 cups flour
¾ tablespoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
½ vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ milk (add more if needed)

Ingredients for filling (my version):
12 ½ oz. can of dates with walnuts (Solo brand)
¾ cup raisins
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons rum

Ingredients for icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

For the dough, add all ingredients to a mixer and mix for three full minutes. Dough will be soft.

Remove dough from mixer and knead by hand for five minutes. (I had to flour my hands several times during this process to keep the dough from sticking to me.)

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. Dough can be made ahead of time and stored for up to five days.

For the filling, stir all ingredients in a bowl. This can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

When you are ready to make the cookies, flour your working surface and roll out one section of the dough at a time until it is 1/8 inch thick. Spread a long row of filling about an inch for the edge of the dough. The picture below is with the raspberry Solo Baking & Pastry Filling.

Roll the edge of the dough over the filling. Cut the rest of the dough off. Then cut your “log” into slices and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Repeat this process until you have used up all of your dough and/or filling.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine seemed to take closer to 20) or until cookies are golden.

Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool. Be sure they have completely cooled before icing.

For the icing, mix together all ingredients, add or subtracting milk to achieve the right consistency. Spread the icing on top of the cookies and decorate with sprinkles. Let icing set completely before storing in an airtight container.

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