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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Between the Holidays Beefcake Sweets

One can only hazard a guess regarding Anthony Catanzaro's Italian origins. Sicily may quite possibly be part of it. There's no doubt that many would like to call one thigh "Xmas" and the other "New Year's" and would love to come visit between the holidays.

Something Sicilian: Cucidati/Cucurreddi

Pasta Frolla:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 large eggs

Fig Filling:
12 ounces (about 2 cups) dried Calimyrna figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup candied orange peel, diced
1/3 cup whole almonds or pine nuts, chopped and lightly toasted
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/3 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Egg wash:
1 large egg, well beaten with 1 pinch salt


Confectioner's sugar emulsified with orange juice

Multi-colored nonpareils for finishing before baking

2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

1. To make the dough, in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse two or three times to mix. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until it it finely incorporated and the mixture is cool and powdery. Add the eggs, all at once, and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, then place it on a piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough into a square about an inch thick and wrap it. Chill the dough while preparing the filling.

2. For the filling, in a large bowl, stem and dice the figs. If they are hard, place them in a saucepan, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Drain the figs in a strainer and allow them to cool before proceeding.

3. In a bowl, combine the diced figs with the rest of the filling ingredients and stir them together. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse to grind the filling mixture finely. Scrape the filling back into the bowl used to mix it.

4. When you are ready to bake the cucidati, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°.

5. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough lightly to make it malleable again and rollit up into a cylinder. Cut the cylinder into twelve equal pieces. One at a time, on a floured surface, flatten each and make it into a rectangle 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. Paint the wash on the dough and evenly distribute 1/3 cup filling down its length. Bring the edges of dough up around the filling to enclose it, then press the edges of the dough together firmly to seal in the filling. Use your palms to roll over the filled cylinder of dough until it extends to 15 inches, then cut it into 3-inch lengths. Set the filled cylinders aside while filling, rolling, and cutting the other pieces of dough.

6. To finish shaping the cucidati, use the point of a sharp knife to slash six or eight diagonal cuts in the top of each filled cylinder of dough. Place each slashed cookie on one of the prepared pans, and curve it into a horseshoe shape. Leave about an inch all around between the cookies.

7. After all the cucidati are on pans, paint the outsides lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle them sparingly with the non-pareils.

8. Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, or until they are a light golden color. Slide the papers from the pans to racks.

9. Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

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