Holidays are about traditions and treats. When I learned about all the Christmas cookies Gary’s family used to make, I was inspired to get baking. One of those cookies is the Cuccidati, the Italian Fig Cookie. Gary has reminisced about it many times. I never had one. Gary’s sister recently told us she was going to make them. I asked her for the recipe that she had transcribed from their grandmother. I created this vegan and gluten-free version. I love it! Gary says they are perfect. Here it is, from our family to yours. Here’s to keeping the tradition, now vegan and gluten-free.
1/4 lbs Almonds
1/4 lbs Walnuts or Pecans
1/4 lbs Dates
1/4 lbs Raisins
1/4 lbs Figs
1/4 teaspoon grated Lemon Rind (zest)
1/8 lb (2 ounces) vegan Chocolate Chips
1 ounce glass of Brandy or Whiskey (we use Bourbon)
1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cloves
3 1/3 cups gluten-free flour
3 1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 1/3 teaspoons Xanthan Gum (not required if your gluten-free mix has xanthan gum in it)
1 Flax Egg (1 Tablespoon Ground Flax Seed Meal plus 2 1/2 Tablespoons water)
7/8 cup Sugar
13 Tablespoons Vegan Butter (we used Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter)
1 1/3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
10 Tablespoons Plant Milk
2 cups Confectioners’ Sugar
4 Tablespoons Plant Milk
Start by making the filling. Turn to oven to 350oF. Place the nuts on a large sheet pan and toast for about 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they do not burn. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool.
In a food processor, pulse all the filling ingredients together. Process until it clumps into a ball. If it seems too dry, you may add a tablespoon of water. It can be used right away or placed in a container to set in the refrigerator. The filling can be prepared a day in advance.
In a small bowl, using a fork, beat 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water. Set aside.
I make my own flour mix from Rolled Oats, Millet and Garbanzo Bean flour. You may use any gluten-free flour for this recipe, just pay attention to the amount of liquid added when making the dough. Not all flours respond the same.
I use the food processor to make the dough. Put all the dry dough ingredients in the processor (flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, sugar). Pulse a few seconds to mix. Then add in the flax seed mixture, vanilla, plant milk and vegan butter. Pulse the ingredients to blend and then process to make the dough. I recommend keeping a little olive oil on the side to lightly oil your hands before handling the dough.
You may also choose the old-fashioned method using your hands. Mix the flour, xanthan gum and baking powder in a large bowl. In a medium bowl mix the flax seed mixture with the sugar, plant milk and vanilla. Cut in the vegan butter, using two knives to cut the butter into small pieces in the flour until ready to knead. Add the wet mixture into the dry flour and knead everything together to make a sticky dough.
The dough should be moist and sticky and hold together well. If the dough is too wet, add more flour, a couple of tablespoons at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball. If it is too dry add a tablespoon of plant milk at a time until dough is flexible and holds together when pressed.
If the filling was chilled take it from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature to soften.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350oF.
Divide the dough into three balls. Roll one ball into a log and place on a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper. Top with another sheet. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top piece of paper and set aside. Trim the edges to make a rectangle about 5 inches wide. Save the trimmings to reuse later.
Divide the filling into 4 pieces. It may be hard but it will soften up when kneaded. Roll one quarter piece into a long log about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick and as long as the rolled rectangle of dough. If the filling log breaks just press it back together. Place the filling in the center of the dough.
Using the paper, roll up one side of dough over the filling. The dough should cover the filling. Roll up the other side and press the edge to seal. Roll the paper away. Slice the log on a diagonal, making one-inch wide slices. Turn each cookie over and place seam-side-down on a baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough. The trimmed edges can come together and make a fourth ball of dough to roll out.
Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Combine confectioners’ sugar and plant milk to make the glaze. Dip the cookies in the glaze. You may decorate with colored sprinkles if you desire. Allow to set.
Store cookies in an airtight container.