Cuccidati (Italian Fig Cookies)

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(Yeah, those are Christmas sprinkles. I was too lazy to go get regular nonpareils!!)

These are my ultimate childhood memory. I love these cookies more than words can say, and I heavily depended on one bakery to give me these cookies 364 days/year.  The other day, March 19, I could depend on a St. Joseph’s altar for these tasty treats. My dad is half Sicilian, so of course, he got me stuck on italian cookies early on.

I decided around Christmas to look up this recipe, because I wanted a challenge in baking. If it didn’t work out, I still had my trusty Italian bakery. If it did, though, there would definitely be a mini-baking victory in order! Let’s just say  there’s a mini-baking victory in order! These cookies came out JUST like the ones I know to love!

Cuccidati
Source: Gourmet through Epicurious

Ingredients

For filling

  • 1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
  • 3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (used Meyer Lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (for next time, this will be omitted.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
    **For the nuts, I toasted and food processed them into a powder, since I never noticed nuts in cuccidati filling before.**

For pastry dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest

For icing
(didn’t use this for the recipe. The cuccidati that I’ve eaten have only had nonpareils on them.)

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • Garnish: multicolored nonpareils

Directions:

Make filling:

  • Pulse figs and raisins (and nuts) in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

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Look at those pretty dried figs.

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Fig filling. Mmm…

Make dough:

  • Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.

Form cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Trim to a 13- by 10-inch rectangle (chill trimmings), then cut into 4 (10- by 3 1/4-inch) strips. Arrange 1/3 cup filling in a 1-inch-wide log lengthwise down center of each strip, then fold sides of each strip up over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams. Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets. Make more cookies in same manner with remaining chilled dough, trimmings (reroll once), and filling.

**Just a note. This dough becomes very sticky when room temperature. So roll this dough out as quickly as possible. I did this between wax paper sheets, flipping the dough often. **

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Adding fillingimg_7277
Rolling dough
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Slicing cookies

  • Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes. Make icing while cookies bake.
  • Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing.
  • Brush icing on warm cookies and decorate with nonpareils (if using), then cool completely.

Notes:

• Filling can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

• Dough can be chilled, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, up to 3 days.

• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

I’m submitting this post to this month’s Tasty Tools events from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures! Go check out her blog for other fun challenges!!

Foodie Christmas Presents!!

This Christmas, I decided to give a bunch of homemade presents. I love the thought of gifting something that is homemade. It feels more personal, and who hates food?

For some family members, I gave spice baskets with homemade vanilla extract and sugar. For the extract, I found very reasonably priced bottles (that you didn’t have to buy in bulk or pay a TON for shipping, since they were glass) at American Spice Company, and I simply used mason jars for the vanilla sugar. To give it a cuter touch, I purchased label sheets at Office Depot and designed the labels for them myself. Check them out!

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I also made some homemade peppermint bark to put in the baskets. This is very simple…just place some parchment on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in melted semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate on top (and swirl a little, if you’d like). Then, before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Once everything hardens, break the bark off into large chunks and place in bags.

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I thought that my family would enjoy some spice mixes, and I decided to give them our favorites from Penzeys: Northwood seasoning and BBQ 3000.

As for our coworkers, I baked sugar cookies using this recipe. I would say this book is a definite read for anyone who is interested in learning to decorate cookies! I adapted it to add almond extract, in addition to the vanilla extract and lemon rind called for in the recipe. It gave the cookies more of a sugar cookie flavor and less of a butter cookie flavor. This was the first homemade sugar cookie recipe that my fiance loved too! I FINALLY ended the search for the perfect recipe! :)

This recipe barely spread, allowing the cookies to keep their great crisp shape. It also rolled VERY easily. I never had a sticking problem, which is something I experienced with some previous recipes.

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To show how well they hold their shape, the cookies on the left are not cooked, while the ones on right are cooked.

I also made candy bark coated pretzels with Christmas M&Ms on top. This was a SUPER easy recipe. Just melt candy melts or bark, spoon into the middle of the store bought pretzels (laid out on wax or parchment paper) and top with 3 M&M’s.
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Last, but not least, I made the infamous Oreo Truffles. To make more, I used 1/2 tsp. as a measuring tool for how big the truffles should be. These made a more decent sized truffle, and I made about 80 with the recipe this time.

Then, I put each treat in holiday cellophane bags, as pictured.

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These went in cute little holiday take-out boxes that I found at Michael’s for $1 each. I absolutely love how these all came out! They were also well-received, so I’m definitely going to keep making edible gifts for future holidays!
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Chocolate Shot Cookies

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The What’s Cooking board recently had a Holiday Treat recipe exchange. Thanks so much to Tara from Smells Like Home for organizing this!! I submitted the cranberry white chocolate pistachio biscotti I recently made, and received this interesting recipe for Chocolate Shot cookies.

The original submitter, The Milkman’s Wife of Milk & Honey mentioned that while these cookies don’t seem like much, they are amazing. I was really surprised! These are thin little cookies with a nice crunch and taste to them. You can’t even tell there is oatmeal in them!!

Chocolate Shot Cookies
Source: The Milkman’s Wife’s mom, Nadine M.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats – whichever you prefer)
  • Chocolate sprinkles for rolling

Directions:

  1. With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Stir together the flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture, beat until combined. Stir in oatmeal and mix well. Chill dough for a half hour. Shape dough into log and roll in chocolate sprinkles. (so that when you slice the cookies you have a border of chocolate sprinkles around the edges of every cookie)
  3. Slice cookies about ¼ inch thick and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve read a lot of great reviews about this recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies. The only reason I made these (since they are SO not diet friendly) is because our over-generous neighbors were landscaping at the same time as my fiance and I. They gave us ALL of their leftover top soil (which was more than what we needed.we didn’t even have to open any bags that we purchased at Lowe’s). So, my fiance suggested that I bake them something. Any excuse to bake works for me! AND it felt good not to use applesauce haha!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Brown Eyed Baker from Baking Illustrated

Makes about 18 large cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
  4.  Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
  5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

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It took a lot of willpower to avoid eating this dough as is.

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Here’s my best effort to make sure the jagged edges stayed jagged. AND, here’s the Silpat debut!! The Silpat totally rocks way more than regular silicone baking sheets I’ve used before!!

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Here they are out of the oven. Yum!

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Finally, these babies are cooled and ready for a taste tester! Sorry, couldn’t help it!!

I will admit, these are some crazy procedures on this recipe (jagged edges on top, what?). However, follow them to the T! The cookies will come out a little gooey, but if you leave them on the baking sheet, they will finish baking into a perfect cookie! The jagged edges do bake into a neat looking top as well.

By the way, since this recipe used a yolk, there was a white left. So, I got bored, and I tried to make a meringue while a batch was baking up. I’ve never done it before! Super cool!! :)

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Elephant Cookies!

My fiance’s nephew just turned 3 years old, and for his birthday, I volunteered to make cookie favors. His favorite animal (of the moment) is an elephant, so I went on the search for an elephant cookie cutter. I found a great set called “Noah’s Ark” at Macy’s that had an elephant. Then, I used the standard Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix (remember I’m still on the search for that PERFECT cookie recipe, so in the meantime, I use my trusty mix) and went to town!

This is the first time I worked with flood icing, so I think I did pretty well considering! I’m now ready to make fun Christmas cookies using my experience with the icing!

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As you can see, my work is nowhere near perfect, but the kids loved them!

Eggnog Cookies and a couple of recipe revisits!

For my last day at my old job, my coworkers asked me to bring in some goodies for them. I decided to make Cranberry White Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti (scroll down a bit for the recipe), Eggnog Cookies and Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies.

The treats went over really well!

Here’s the recipe for eggnog cookies. These left for a very subtle spice taste, so if you want more eggnog, add more. Many people on Allrecipes adapted the recipe that way.

Eggnog Cookies
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Cream sugar and butter until light. Add eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks; beat at medium speed with mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg. Bake 20 to 23 minutes until bottoms turn light brown.

Check out the spread!!

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Cranberry White Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

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Eggnog Cookies

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Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Brownies

 

Pumpkin (White) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these pumpkin cookies last week, since I was on a serious pumpkin kick, as you can tell from previous entries. These were a little too sweet with the white chocolate chips, in my opinion. So, next time, I’ll omit them and let the pumpkin shine!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I did 1/2 cup applesauce, of course!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used white chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional and omitted)

Directions:

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
  2. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

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Sugar Cookies: The search continues…

I’ve been searching for the PERFECT sugar cookie. While I like the sugar cookies I’ve made, I’ve been searching for a cookie that my fiance LOVES (and I can roll out into cute shapes). I bought my fiance a cookie bouquet for our anniversary, and he seemed to really like those. So, I searched for a cookie bouquet copycat recipe, and thisis what I found. (you will need to scroll down for the recipe)

Anyways, I decided to bite the bullet, and make them today. I shudder at the thought of crisco in baking, but I didn’t want to substitute anything. So, I made them as is (with a SMALL substitution). See, I made vanilla sugar two weeks ago, and I wanted to actually use it in a recipe. This stuff is amazing and the cute little black specks make me forget about the crisco in the recipe (ok, maybe not)…

Turns out, this makes a REALLY soft cookie that doesn’t spread very much. I didn’t brown these cookies..they came out at JUST the right time. I did make these in two pans, one on parchment on the middle shelf (cookies on the right) and one with baking spray on the top shelf (cookies to the left).

I think these work best on the middle shelf, especially if you want to decorate the cookies. There is little to no cracks when you do it this way :). However, these are a little TOO sticky to roll out into shapes, and aren’t as dense as the cookie bouquet cookies. Don’t get me wrong…these tasted GREAT and the vanilla sugar gave the cookies a wonderful flavor!! Check them out!!


Anyways, enough talk already…here is the recipe!


Cookies by Design Sugar Short Bread Cookies
Source: Cooking Light forum (link above)

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Whip sugar and shortening in a large bowl, add eggs and beat well. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Knead dough into ball, roll out and cut. Place on cookie sheet in oven and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.

This makes a ton of dough…I made 24 cookies (about 2-3 inches in diameter when done) and I think that was a little over half of the dough, so I will say this makes 40 cookies.

Do I DARE give you the POINTS on these per serving? It’s actually not that bad..especially considering Weight Watchers’ sugar cookie recipe is the same amount of points per cookie!!

Points*: 3 (this was calculated using eTools so it only gives me points values but 1 point is about 50-60 calories to give you an idea)

Stay tuned…the search continues… :D. I think the next recipe I will try comes from my cookie decorating cookbook that I purchased shortly after the holiday season last year.

Chewy Thin Mints

These came out really rich but good. Remind me SO much of the taste of girl scout cookies but really chewy. I left about 8 at home with the fam and brought the rest to work. They were gone in minutes!

Chewy Thin Mints
Source: Cooking Light

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Preparation
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Combine the brown sugar and next 5 ingredients (brown sugar through peppermint extract) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the egg white. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed until well-blended.

Coat your hands lightly with cooking spray. Shape the dough into a 6-inch log. Wrap log in plastic wrap; freeze 1 hour or until firm. ** For me, firm was after 24 hours, and it wasn’t really firm but it was enough to manage with! **

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut the log into 24 (1/4-inch) slices, and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

** I then melted white chocolate and drizzled that on top of the cookies with sprinkles. Added food coloring for a fun look :) **

Would you like a bite?

Makes 2 dozen cookies (serving size: 1 cookie)

Nutritional Information

CALORIES 76(22% from fat); FAT 1.8g (sat 1.1g,mono 0.5g,poly 0.1g); PROTEIN 1.2g; CHOLESTEROL 4mg; CALCIUM 8mg; SODIUM 33mg; FIBER 0.2g; IRON 0.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 13.7g

Valentine’s Day Cookies!

This was a spur of the moment thing, but when the WC ladies were talking cookies, all I wanted to do was bake some. After my Christmas snafu with the cookies that were too sticky, I saw bakingblonde’s blog entry for her cookies and tried making them myself!

I did make them sugar free to give myself an excuse that they were diet friendly, so here goes the recipe.

Famous Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (VERY soft)
1 cup sugar (I used 1 cup splenda)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 375.

In a small bowl stir together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In mixing bowl beat butter until soft and smooth. Add in sugar and beat to combine. Add egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add flour mixture. Beat until just combined and dough is smooth.
Turn out to floured work surface and roll to 1/3″ thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut desired shapes.
Place cookies on baking sheets and bake for 6-9 minutes until beginning to brown on bottom and around edges. Don’t overbake or they will be crisp. Tasty, but crisp.
Cool on counter.

Nutritional Information:

Servings Per Recipe: 24
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 126.7
Total Fat: 8.0 g
Cholesterol: 29.3 mg
Sodium: 44.2 mg
Total Carbs: 12.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 1.8 g

Weight Watchers Points: 3

For the frosting, I didn’t have cream cheese so I found this one on allrecipes and used it. It was really really sweet. Beware, I halved the recipe and I really should have quartered it because I didn’t need that much at all :) Here is the original recipe.

Sugar Cookie Frosting:
INGREDIENTS

* 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
* 5 tablespoons milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* food coloring (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large bowl, cream together the confectioners’ sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring if desired.


Here is my dog begging for a taste…I gave her a treat instead though!!