fig cookies on cutting board
America is a melting pot of cultures, identities, and ethnicities. The introduction of home DNA kits has made it simple for people to know exactly where their cultural roots stem from. According to YouGovAmerica, about 21% of Americans have submitted a mail-in DNA test. Whether the purpose is for health backgrounds or just an interest in ancestry, it’s clear that people want to know where they come from. With knowledge about family heritage often comes a sense of pride, and to show it, people carry on traditions, including language, clothing, and food.
Traditional cultural foods are often at their peak around the holidays when families tend to join together in large groups. Mexican families make tamales at Christmas, Jewish families fry up latkes for Hanukkah, and many Japanese families ring in Christmas Eve with fried chicken, per USA Today. Of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays in America without cookies. And when it comes down to it, even these sweet baked goods are often influenced by countries from around the world. Shortbread hails from Scotland, Madeleines are from France, and those piped butter cookies in the blue tin are so very Dutch (via The Spruce Eats). These are tried and true favorites, but why not come out of your comfort zone this year and try something else from across the Atlantic and past the Mediterranean? You may be surprised how your cookie recipients (and you) will swoon over a sweet, fig-filled cookie from Sicily called the Cuccidati.
Fruity, Spicy, Boozy
Mom and daughter baking
Traditionally made at Christmas time, Cuccidati (pronounced coo-chee-dot-ee) consists of a butter cookie that is stuffed with a mixture of dried figs, candied citrus, nuts, spices, a touch of booze, and, sometimes, chocolate. The finished product looks a bit like an overstuffed Fig Newton with a sugar glaze and sprinkles for fun. Inherently Sicilian, the food blog Italian Recipe Book mentions the confection and also shows the island’s history with Arab influence in the form of cinnamon. The Thinking Traveler also suggests that it was the Arabs who brought oranges and almonds to Sicily, both of which make an appearance in cuccidati.
The Sicilian fig cookie can take several shapes, but one of the most popular forms begins as a large log shape. The Kitchn explains how to make a basic butter cookie dough with a touch of lemon. Once the dough comes together, it rests in the fridge before being rolled out into flat rectangles. Meanwhile, the filling is made. The thick, paste-like filling bursting with fruit, nuts, and spices is then pressed on the long end of the cookie dough and rolled into a log shape. Next, the log is cut into individual cookies and baked. Once finished, each cookie is glazed with a mixture of powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk. Then, nonpareils are sprinkled on top. Whether you’re Sicilian or not, these cookies are so delightful you may want them as a part of your holiday traditions year after year.