Welcome to Day 9 of our 13 Days of Christmas Cookies. Today’s recipe for Sicilian Filled Cookies is shared by Chef Vince Pianalto, friend and Pastry Instructor for Brightwater, A Center for the Study of Food in Northwest Arkansas. – Editor
“As a child, around the holiday season, my Grandmother and her sister would cover every horizontal surface of her house with cloth—bedsheets, table cloths, you name it!
The pair would get the biggest bowl I had ever seen (at least at my young age) and fill it with all the ingredients for the cookies. Then they would prepare the dough. My Grandmother didn’t have a stand mixer, so she just used brute strength and a big pot to blend the dough. She made bread in the same pot every Saturday. I am pretty sure this is why her forearms looked quite similar to the cartoon character, Popeye.
The next day, the assembly began: one would roll the dough, the other placed the filling. Both would then roll, cut, and bake the cookies. Dozens and dozens of cookies. All of the cloths would be covered with the cookies to cool. After they cooled down, my aunt would drizzle each cookie with a sugar glaze of various tinted colors. Grandma usually followed with sprinkles of some sort. They would then bag them in ziplock bags to be distributed among all of the relatives: our good Catholic family had a VERY large ‘tree’.
As a youngster, I hated these cookies! Raisins! What the heck is a date?! Figs?! Blech! It was only after I became a chef (and an adult) that I really came to appreciate this cookie. It truly was remarkable. A much more complex Fig Newton, but far more whimsical. In my first restaurant, I asked Grandma for the recipe. She was aghast that I would often share recipes with customers! She literally made me write ‘Confidential’ on the top of this cookie recipe to remind me to keep our ‘family secret.’
She just recently passed away in her mid ’90s. I think of this story every time I pull out this top secret recipe.”
- 8 ounces butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-1/2 pounds flour
- 1/8 cup baking powder
- 4 ounces each dates, dry figs, raisins
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup almonds
- As needed white wine
- 1 In a stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Finally, add dry ingredients a little at a time until a dough forms.
- 2 Press into a disc, and chill for minimum 1 hour or overnight.
- 1 In a bowl, place all dried fruits, chocolate chips, and almonds. Pour white wine over until barely covered. Allow to macerate overnight.
- 1 Next day, in a food processor, combine all filling ingredients and pulse until a thick paste forms.
- 2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- 3 Roll chilled dough to a thickness of about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into strips about 3-inches wide.
- 4 With damp hands, form paste into a rope and place on edge of dough strip. Roll dough up and around paste and press to seal. Cut into 2-inch pieces.
- 5 Place on parchment covered baking sheet, with a little space in between. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Can be glazed with simple powdered sugar icing or melted chocolate.