Recreating traditional Christmas cookies can be challenging in modern kitchens which sometimes aren’t conducive to old-world recipes. While teaching her Sweet Italian Traditions baking class in our headquarters’ marraforni test kitchen last year, Chef Amy Riolo noticed that our electric pizza ovens did a perfect job of not only replicating the old-fashioned ones that these cookies were originally baked in but also allowed for many cookies to be cooked evenly and simultaneously!
Even though marraforni electric brick oven boasts cooking temperatures of up to 1000℉, they also can be used at lower temperatures for cookie and dessert recipes like this one. Their design allows the heat to be evenly distributed from all directions, enabling all sides to cook evenly without the need to rotate baking pans. In this blog, Chef Amy Riolo shares her family’s version of a classic recipe that is quick to become everyone’s favorite.
Fig-Filled Christmas Cookies/Petrali/Cucidati – Recipe from Chef Amy Riolo.
These cookies were the single most important culinary tradition of Christmas in many Calabrian or Sicilian American households. Calabrians call these cookies Petrali while Sicilians call them Cucidati. Regardless, they are the crowning glory of many dessert tables.
Each year, I remember my grandmother meticulously following the same recipe that her mother passed down to her. Making the cookies was a three-part project. The first step was to make the delicious, citrus-infused dough. Next, came the traditional filling of figs, nuts, honey, citrus zest enriched with my great grandmother’s addition of dates, cherries, and cinnamon. Lastly, the dough was rolled out and the cookies got filled and baked.
If you are making this recipe for the first time, I recommend doing it in stages with marraforni’s electric brick oven. Make the filling one day and refrigerate it, the dough, and the icing on another day, and roll out and assemble them on another day. They can be made ahead of time and frozen.
Ingredient Needed for Italian Holiday Cookies With Marraforni Electric Brick Oven
Ingredients For the Dough:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, or as needed plus orange zest
Ingredients For the Filling:
- 1 pound dried organic white or other soft figs, stems removed
- 1 pound dried pitted dates
- 1 whole orange, zested and juiced
- 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 pound walnuts or almonds
- 1 cup honey 14 ounces Maraschino cherries, or other pitted cherries, drained
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
Ingredients For the Glaze:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla juice and zest of 1/2 orange sprinkles
*If figs are very dry – place them in a large bowl and cover with warm water to soften overnight before using.
Drain figs and place in a food processor with dates Add in orange and lemon zest and juice and process. Add in walnuts, honey, cherries, cinnamon, and sugar. Process until combined. Make the dough by combining all of the dough ingredients in a standing mixer.
Once ingredients are combined and form a dough-like mass, turn the dough out onto a surface and knead a few times until a smooth ball of dough is formed.
Flatten the ball into a disk.
Roll out the dough until approximately 1’8 – inch thick (like pie dough). Make strips 4-inches in length across the diameter of the dough (same process as ravioli). Place a 1 1/2-inch strip of filling in a log across the middle of the strip. Roll up the dough strip to cover the filling. Cut cookies with a pizza cutter or knife into 1-inch diagonal pieces.
Preheat your Electric Brick oven to 350F degrees. Place cookies onto a well-greased or lined baking sheet leaving 1/2-inch in between each one. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. In the meantime, make a glaze by whisking butter and powdered sugar together. Add in vanilla and orange zest and stir well to incorporate.
Add in orange juice, bit by bit, until you achieve a glaze consistency. Spoon glaze over cookies as soon as they are cool and top with sprinkles. Check Out Chef Amy Riolo’s other Recipe for Mastering Roasted Chicken.