Known as cucciddati or cucidati in dialect, buccellati are Sicily's best known Christmas cookie. A thin pastry wrapped around a filling of dried figs and nuts, they are reminiscent of fig cookies—but better. Glazed and decorated with colored sprinkles or simply dusted with confectioner's sugar, these festive treats aren't around for long, so make the most of them by baking a big batch and sharing the love with family and friends.
The variations are as many as there are households in Sicily. You can find these cookies in the form of one large buccellato ring, its pastry heavily decorated with crimping, as well as individual buccellati cookies in a variety of shapes and forms. The "X" and "arch" shapes are common, but you can also find them made like half-moon ravioli or, even simpler, in little logs like cannoli, as well as in shorter, flatter versions. It's common to cut slashes or patterns into the pastry with a razor blade or very sharp knife to expose the contrasting filling for decoration.
Once you've decided on the form you want (or why not experiment? Each cookie could be a different shape or pattern.), consider some of these variations in the filling. Instead of orange marmalade, try apricot or peach jam —or cut out a step by using fig jam instead of the dried, soaked, and chopped figs. Substitute the pistachios or pine nuts for almonds or hazelnuts. Change up the orange zest with other citrus—mandarin orange or lemon, for example. Add 100 grams of dark chocolate chips, candied citrus, or dates. Use a splash of marsala or rum, or add some of your favorite Christmas spices (ground cloves or nutmeg are commonly added). —Emiko