When author Tembi Locke’s mother-in-law came to L.A. to see her cancer-stricken son over the holidays, she arrived with a suitcase filled with braided garlic, specialty cheeses, tomatoes, olive oil, almonds, and lots of dried figs. Intent on soothing hearts, Locke’s mother-in-law took to making cuccidati (“little bracelet”), the traditional Sicilian Christmas cookies. In this article, Locke recounts what these small, buttery cookies taught her about her own grief, her mother-in-law, and the power of forgiveness.
Both the dough and the fruity, nutty filling for these classic Italian holiday cookies come together quickly in a food processor. Nonpareils (tiny round sprinkles) are the traditional adornment, but lemon zest or chopped pistachios are great too. The orange zest in the filling, though optional, really makes the flavors sing.
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What you’ll need
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Pulse ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour in a food processor to combine. Add ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, and process until mixture is the consistency of wet sand, 10–15 seconds. Add 2 large eggs and pulse until a ball of dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a fat cylinder. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.
Do Ahead: Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Pulse 1⅓ cups chopped dried figs, 2 Tbsp. chopped dried apricots, 2 Tbsp. raisins, 2 Tbsp. chopped raw almonds, 2 Tbsp. chopped raw pistachios, 2 Tbsp. orange marmalade, 2 tsp. honey, 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest (if using), ½ tsp. instant espresso powder (if using), and ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon in clean food processor until finely chopped but not puréed.
Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle slightly larger than 10x8". (If dough cracks around the edges, just push it together; it’s quite forgiving.) Rotate dough so a long side is nearest to you, dusting with more flour if needed. Trim dough to measure 10x8", then halve lengthwise to make two 10x4" rectangles.
Using wet hands, roll half of filling into a 10" cylinder and arrange down length of 1 rectangle of dough. Fold long side of dough nearest to you over filling and roll up to encase filling; gently press seam to seal. Roll log seam side down and rock back and forth to secure. Trim ends. Slice log in half crosswise, then slice each half into 1"-thick rounds (you should have 4 or 5 rounds each). Place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about ½" apart (the cookies won’t spread much). Repeat process with second rectangle of dough and remaining filling; arrange on baking sheet.
Bake cookies until pale golden underneath and firm, 17–22 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Whisk 1 cup (110 g) powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Icing should be thick but pourable (slightly thicker than heavy cream); thin with water if needed.
Set wire rack with cookies inside baking sheet. Spoon icing over cookies and immediately sprinkle with multicolored nonpareils, chopped pistachios, and/or finely grated lemon zest as desired. Let cookies sit until icing is set, 10–15 minutes.
Do Ahead: Cookies can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
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Reviews (12)Back to Top
These worked out perfectly! They are going to be made many times over the holiday season!
For those asking about the missing eggs in the ingredient list, the recipe (published in the magazine) calls for 2 eggs.
My Sicilian grandmother, who passed away in 2004, made these for Christmas every year. She did have a great sense of humor, but she told us cuccidati meant “old shoes” because of the shape. My aunts still make some years before Xmas, but the recipe is in their heads and I need to get them to write it down! It is similar to this one but perhaps not as fussy. My Grandma Vee (Vincentia) also used to put little pieces of dark chocolate in with the fig. Neither my kids nor my husband are crazy about them, unlike me, so I’ve never made. The rich fig gives them a distinctly Italian flavor I don’t think they appreciate as I do. We made at my aunt’s house five years ago with female cousins; the dough takes some work and it was a fun process to make together while we sipped wine and wore Santa hats. It’s distinctly a Christmas cookie in Sicilian culture. Grandma would top with a light icing and colored sprinkles. (She made a great Christmas bread too with candied fruit and icing that we would slice and put in the toaster, and also delicious semolina bread studded with sesame seeds. If we got too close to the edge of the bowl watching as kids as she kneaded, she’d playfully brush our noses with flour.) I remember looking for this recipe online years ago and having difficulty finding it, so great to see it here. Sicily seems to be appearing more in popular culture, and I really enjoyed and was touched by the author’s recent series. The Sicilian mother in the show wore house dresses similar to my grandmother 😉. I think of Sicilian women of that generation as being tough but very loving and with great value for family. Thanks for the memories. Sicily is on my bucket list to visit. Saluti.
These cookies came out great! I love figs so the large portion of fig filling per cookie suited my tastes perfectly and wasn't to much for regular fig people. Also a very attractive cookie with simple decorating resulting in a really nice appearance.
Ditto all the questions about eggs. Also, in the article associated with this recipe, it talks about making these with fresh figs and a process of cooking them down. I wish we had that version of the recipe!
Sara A Mueller
Excited to try this recipe. One question, it shows the items you need to make this recipe, one being pastry rulers, but the recipe does not say what thickness the dough should be. Could you please include that information. I’m also assuming that the number of eggs depends on what size eggs you use, because the dough is to be a certain consistency.
San Jose, CA
Eggs are not mentioned in the ingredient section. How many eggs to make the dough????
Based on other recipes, two eggs would be right.
I really want to make this, but the recipe doesn't include basic information about a key ingredient (how many eggs to make the dough?) How are people rating this anything close to five stars?
How many eggs does the dough need?
Please add the eggs to the dough recipe. Thanks!
What a beautiful family treasure you have shared. I will be making these fig cookies soon!
The recipe for Cuccidati looks great - but the ingredients are missing the EGGS that are supposed to be added in STEP 1 for Dough. Please correct the recipe. Thank you.