Buccellati (Sicilian Christmas Fig Cookies)

By Emiko
November 25, 2014
20 Comments


Author Notes: 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

Makes: 40 to 50 cookies

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 1 pound (17 ounces or 500 grams) dried figs
  • 1 cup (5 ounces or 150 grams) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces or 60 grams) unsalted pistachios, shelled
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce or 35 grams) pine nuts
  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) walnut kernels
  • 1/3 cup (4 ounces or 125 grams) honey
  • 2/3 cup (200 grams) orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon

For the pastry and decorating:

  • 5 cups (600 grams) flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) chilled butter or lard, diced
  • 3 eggs plus 1 yolk, beaten
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 1/2 cups (310 grams) confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped unsalted pistachios (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons colored sprinkles (optional)
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions

For the filling:

  1. Place the figs in a bowl and pour boiling water over them; let them sit for at least 15 minutes to soften. Drain figs and remove the stems with a sharp knife before chopping roughly. Place in a food processor and blitz until you have a paste, then transfer to a bowl.
  2. Place the walnuts and pistachios in the food processor and chop finely—but leave them a little rough; don't go so far as to turn this into a paste too. Add to the figs, along with the rest of the filling ingredients. Combine well and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours at least, but it's better to leave it overnight to let the flavors develop.

For the pastry and decorating:

  1. For the pastry: Place first four ingredients in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture (or pulse in a food processor) until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the eggs and yolk and combine until you have a smooth dough. If it is a little too sticky, add a small amount of flour until it no longer sticks to your hands. If it's dry or crumbly, add some cold water, a little at a time, until it comes together. Wrap firmly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest and chill, at least 1 hour but better overnight.
  2. To assemble: Cut the chilled dough into 4 to 6 smaller portions and work one portion at a time (keeping the others wrapped in plastic and chilled). Roll first into a sausage shape, then flatten and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a long rectangle, no more than an 1/8-inch thick. Place filling along the middle of the rectangle lengthways in a long, thin log shape, no more than an inch wide. Roll the pastry around it to enclose completely, overlapping the dough just a little bit. Trim off the extra pastry. Roll the log gently with the palms of your hands to seal the edges and tighten and lengthen the log ever so slightly. Cut 3-inch pieces of the log with diagonal cuts. (It helps if both the pastry and the filling are chilled, so if possible, work a bit at a time and keep chilled anything that you are not using).
  3. Prepare a baking sheet lined with baking paper. To make an "X" shape, use a very sharp knife to cut about 1 1/4-inch incision from top and bottom of the logs (leaving about 3/4 inch uncut in the middle) and separate gently to form an "X." To make an arch, make 1/2-inch incisions along the side of the log, then gently bend to form into an arch. Place cookies on baking sheet and bake at 350º F (180º C) for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry is just beginning to turn golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the glaze (if using). With a fork, beat the whites until they become frothy. Add the 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar until you have a smooth paste the consistency of honey. Add more sugar if not thick enough and, if necessary, you can strain the mixture through a sieve again to make it perfectly smooth. Spoon or brush the glaze over the tops of the cookies and either leave as they are or top with a pinch of chopped pistachios or colored sprinkles. You could also simply dust with confectioner's sugar.
  5. Place the glazed cookies back on the baking tray and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until the glaze feels dry and set. Let cool completely before serving. Keep in an airtight container.

More Great Recipes:
Cookie|Italian|Fruit|Make Ahead|Holiday|Winter|Christmas

Reviews (20) Questions (0)

20 Comments

nomnomMKE January 4, 2016
These were a huge hit with my family this year, and they're not nearly as difficult to assemble as they seem. They will definitely be making holiday appearances from here on!
 
Laura December 20, 2015
Hi! These sound wonderful. I want to make them especially for my friends Italian mom. My question is - do you use the golden Turkish figs, or the black mission figs? (Or did it not matter a fig? haha, pun intended.)
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 21, 2015
They're the golden figs but you can use really whatever you have on hand!
 
Laura December 21, 2015
Thanks!<br />
 
Kathleen H. December 7, 2015
These look wonderful! Can you tell me if you can freeze these cookies so they can be made ahead of time?
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 8, 2015
I personally haven't frozen them yet but imagine they would freeze quite well. Or at least the dough and the filling separately, for sure.
 
Kathleen H. December 8, 2015
Thanks! I can't wait to try them :)
 
Donna Y. December 27, 2014
I just had these for the first time this Christmas—they were made by my friend's Sicilian mom. They were absolutely amazing! I am so excited that I found your recipe, so now I can make them. My new favorites!
 
Douglas A. December 21, 2014
We just made these today. They are indescribably good. After watching a few YouTube videos (mostly Italian without English translation) on getting from dough and filling to read-to-bake cookie were invaluable. We were able to turn out about 7 dozen in a couple of hours.
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 21, 2014
Fantastic!
 
Denise December 18, 2014
This is terrific! However, I am Sicilian and these are not Buccellati. My family name is Buccellato, which is a round festive cake. These are Cuccidati! I saw posts on Google calling them this but not in Sicily and not in our family or my husband's Sicilian family. <br />These are very time consuming to make but oh so worth it. We only make them at Christmas. So many of us would hide stashes of them because they didn't last long before being completely consumed. <br />You can freeze them for about 6 months or keep in an airtight container for 1 month. But they won't last! Great for breakfast, too. <br />Great job!
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 21, 2014
Ciao Denise! I appreciate your comments. These biscuits are known throughout the rest of Italy as buccellati (and even many Sicilian cooks/websites call them these too, I noticed!) but in Sicily in native dialect as cucciddati (and a number of variations on that name with different spelling depending on where you go!). I wrote a little more about that in my article on it here: https://food52.com/blog/11823-how-to-make-sicilian-christmas-fig-cookies-buccellati
 
deborah November 28, 2017
I was born and raised in Sicily and cucciddati is the dialect for buccellati. <br />Great recipe Emiko.<br />Grazie
 
monica December 9, 2014
These are really good, but even a half recipe is a lot of cookies! A lot of work, even though I simplified the process a touch (stemming the figs before soaking, not bothering to chop them before putting them in the food processor; chopping the nuts before the figs so I didn't have to clean the processor again, etc.). I think I will make these every year. I may make them again closer to Christmas filled with mincemeat instead of making my usual mini mince tarts--I think that they would be divine!
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 21, 2014
Yes! It makes a lot - the idea being that you might want to give these away as lovely handmade edible gifts! Also they are delicious so if you ask me, you can never have enough! They are a nice substitute for mince pies aren't they?!
 
Tracey W. December 3, 2014
I'm wanting to make these for Christmas... Can I refrigerate the dough for ~8 days? before rolling and shaping? I assume yes, but want to be sure.
 
Author Comment
Emiko December 3, 2014
That's a bit too long for refrigerating, but you could freeze it easily! Just wrap well in plastic wrap, freeze and 24 hours before you want to use it, thaw in fridge.
 
Tracey W. December 3, 2014
Thank you. I'll do that. I bake a lot of cookies at Christmas and always try something new. I'm excited to try this!
 
Tracey W. December 18, 2014
I made these as part of my Christmas cookie bonanza - and they were one of my favorite new cookies. I like to add them to the mix, because they are not overly sweet like the caramels, and others - So - thank you for adding a recipe that will become part of a tradition. I did make an orange rum glaze to glaze them with, and that was pretty awesome.
 
Midge December 1, 2014
This made me smile Emiko. Loved these growing up. My Sicilian grandma made them in all sorts of shapes, including what she called sea monsters. To my little kid's ears they were "gucci dadis."