Fig cookies revisited

8 Dec

These cookies got me in a lot of trouble last year. For a while it was touch and go whether Cousin Josephine would ever speak to me again.

We had just finished our Christmas Eve dinner and the desserts were coming out, the most crucial, as always, being Jo’s outstanding cookies and biscotti. As my cousin began to uncover one particular tray of baked goods I noticed her eyeing me with purpose and more than a little wariness.

“We’ve NEVER put frosting on our fig cookies,” she announced to me and to no one else.

My cousin was referring to a recipe for fig cookies (aka cuccidati) that I had earlier posted right here on this blog. In it I accused Jo, her mother Anna, our Aunt Laura, and even My Sainted Mother of topping the traditional Christmas cookies with sweet white frosting and colorful rainbow non pareils, not a simple dusting of confectioners sugar, as I prefer and as my recipe suggested.

“Honestly,” Jo added with a look of disappointment that still cuts me a year later, “I don’t know where you get your ideas sometimes.”

This is not how Christmas Eve is supposed to end.

Josephine is more a sister to me than a cousin, and I love her very much. The idea that I would accuse her and all the other bakers in our family of sweet white frosticide on so important a Christmas tradition is not an excusable offense. Not where I come from it isn’t.

I won’t defend myself here. Despite a clear, though evidently flawed memory to the contrary, if Josephine says that she has never used frosting on her Christmas fig cookies then she has never used frosting on her Christmas fig cookies.

I cannot be more sorry for suggesting otherwise.

And wish to dedicate this recipe to my beloved cousin.

For starters, this recipe will make around 5 dozen cookies. Mix together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add two sticks of cold unsalted butter (cut into small cubes) and work the butter into the flour mixture using your hands.

After a couple minutes the flour and butter will kind of clump together, like so.

Add 2 extra large eggs (beaten), 1/2 cup milk, and 2 tablespoons Anisette. Mix together thoroughly by hand until a dough forms.

The dough will be on the moist side, which is okay, that’s what you want. Wrap it in plastic and chill in the fridge for a good couple hours or more before making the cookies. (I actually kept the dough chilling overnight and made the cookies the following day.)

For the filling we’ve got one ring of dried figs (pinch off the hard ends), 1/4 pound pitted dates, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 cup pecans, 2/3 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup candied orange peel, 1/2 cup honey, 1/3 cup whiskey (I went with Jack Daniel’s), 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Put them all together in a food processor and mix into a paste.

Like so.

Cut the dough ball into quarters (put the dough you aren’t working with back in the fridge until ready to use, so it keeps cold). On a well-floured surface roll out one of the pieces of dough until it’s roughly 4 inches wide by maybe 18 or 20 inches long. The rolled dough should be around 1/8-inch thick, give or take. Take a quarter of the filling and roll it along the center of the dough.

Brush the dough with an egg wash and then roll it from one side to the other.

Make sure to pinch along the seam when you’re done rolling.

Making sure that the seam is on the bottom, brush more egg wash along the entire roll.

With a pastry cutter or sharp knife cut the roll into pieces that are around an inch and a half wide. At this point all that’s left to do is put them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The cookies should bake in a 350 degree F oven for around 20 minutes, give or take. At the halfway mark rotate the baking sheet so the cookies cook evenly. Allow to cool thoroughly.

Then you can sprinkle some confectioners sugar on top before serving. Or not.

Just don’t be pouring no thick white frosting on top of them.

Right, Jo?

10 Responses to “Fig cookies revisited”

  1. LeAnne December 8, 2019 at 3:08 pm #

    Great tutorial… Now can you do one on struffoli. Mine keep turning out as heavy as lead shot. Thanks.

  2. Peter December 8, 2019 at 3:14 pm #

    Good job at redemption. Hello from Roma.
    I’ll be looking for those here,although I have a miserable cold.

  3. DAVE BLAKNEY December 8, 2019 at 3:43 pm #

    i made up a filling for these last night but realized i was out of anisette for the dough…this justifies my trip to the local italian specialty shop “bob’s foods” in medford massachusetts today…if you haven’t been put it on your bucket list. oh man the sandwiches…chicken eggplant parm combo…

  4. Bailey Cal December 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm #

    I love the back story and know the feeling about mis-remembered memories! Yum!

  5. Trina and Tina December 8, 2019 at 11:24 pm #

    Ummm…YES!!!!

  6. Michael Raffio December 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm #

    I can’t speak for Josephine or anyone else but ‘Our Sainted Mother” definitely used frosting and those colorful “sprinkles” on her fig cookies. She did not bake them this way (log shaped.) She shaped them like a bow tie – two triangles meeting in the middle. She made an alternate version using almond paste rather than the fig filling. Sorry, but it’s true.

    • mistermeatball December 9, 2019 at 4:58 pm #

      I have said all I wish to say on the matter, as it is not in my best interest to stoke this frosted fire any further than I already have. Peace and love to all. (And pass the cookie tray.)

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