For a delicate, pleasantly chewy cookie that would make a good light dessert or afternoon snack and would be equally welcome on any holiday table, we turned to Sicilian cuccidati for inspiration. Cuccidati are fig cookies traditionally made with buttery pastry dough and glazed with sugar; for a lighter version, we opted for phyllo instead of pastry dough and swapped the glaze for an aromatic syrup. To make the filling, we simmered dried figs in a spiced syrup until they were plump and tender and then pulsed them in a food processor with toasted walnuts and sherry to create a thick, flavorful paste. Do you ever make desserts using phyllo dough? For the dough, we found that layering just three sheets of phyllo gave us the thickness and flakiness we were after. We brushed each sheet with fruity olive oil and then dusted the sheets with confectioners’ sugar to help them adhere to one another. To shape our cookies, we piped the fig paste onto the dough and rolled it to make a thin log that could be sliced into pieces. After baking, we brushed the rolls with an orange-scented syrup to keep them moist and give them a festive, polished finish. Phyllo dough is also available in larger 18 by 14-inch sheets; if using, cut them in half to make 14 by 9-inch sheets. Do not thaw the phyllo in the microwave; let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 4 to 5 hours. While working with the phyllo, cover the sheets with plastic wrap and then a damp dish towel to prevent drying. We prefer to make this fig phyllo recipe with golden figs, though Black Mission figs can be substituted.
California Fig Phyllo Recipe
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 strips orange zest 2" strips
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 1 1/2 cups Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Figs stemmed and halved
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped coarse
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
- 6 phyllo sheets thawed, 14"x9"
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
For the Sugar Syrup
- Bring all ingredients to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until syrup is thickened and slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Discard zest and transfer syrup to bowl; set aside.
For the Fig Filling
- Bring figs, water, sugar, orange zest, and anise seeds to simmer in now-empty saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Let fig mixture cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Process fig mixture in food processor until paste forms, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, add walnuts and sherry, and pulse until walnuts are finely chopped, about 10 pulses. Transfer filling to zipper-lock bag and snip off 1 corner to create 1-inch opening.
For the Pastry
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place 1 phyllo sheet on counter with long side parallel to counter edge, brush lightly with oil, then dust with 1 teaspoon sugar. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil and dusting with 1 teaspoon sugar (you should have total of 3 layers of phyllo).
- Pipe half of filling along bottom edge of phyllo, leaving 1½-inch border along edge. Fold bottom edge of phyllo over filling, then continue rolling phyllo away from you into firm cylinder. With cylinder seam side down, use serrated knife to cut cylinder into 12 equal pieces. Arrange cookies on prepared sheet, spaced 1½ inches apart. Repeat with remaining 3 phyllo sheets, oil, sugar, and filling and arrange on sheet.
- Bake cookies until light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Drizzle warm cookies with syrup and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.)