Italian Fig Cookies (Cuchidahti or Cucidate)

My grandparents had a large fig tree at the back end of their yard in Gentilly. Each summer, when the fruit would be almost ripe, we’d go back there and pick loads of them. We could never get them all and most of them would just fall to the ground and rot in the hot New Orleans’ sun. What a smell! But I loved those figs and it seemed like everyone the neighborhood had one of these trees. The little old ladies would made jams, preserves, cakes and these cookies from them.

These cookies are like hard Fig Newtons. They come in bags of maybe 5 or 6 large planks, are usually iced different pastel colors, have sprinkles and can be found at most grocery stores in the GNO. G. and I had some on St. Joseph’s day this past Spring bought at Breaux Mart on Severn Ave. in Metairie (followed later that evening by a Hubig’s pie and half a piece of Russian Cake). Heaven.

Italian Fig Cookies

1 lb. dried figs
1/2 lb pitted dates
rind from 1/2 orange
1 cup glazed fruit
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup dark raisins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

4 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups butter
1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons cold water

3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. anise flavoring
Dash of salt

Remove hard stems from figs. Soak them in warm water for 20 minutes. Grind your figs, dates, orange rind, raisins and glazed fruit in a food processor. Add all filling ingredients into a large saucepan and heat thoroughly, you want everything to be incorporated well. Remove from heat and set aside.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or knife until crumbly. Sprinkle the cold water in and toss lightly with a fork until mixed. Add remaining water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing until dough is smooth. Heat oven to 275 degrees and take half the dough on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle (it should be about 1/8“ thick). Cut into 3” wide strips and spread 4 tablespoons of filling down the center of each strip, leave about 1“ on either side. Moisten the bare sides with water, fold over and press lightly with a fork to seal. Cut each strip into 6-2” cookies, cut and slit in the fold side of each cookie, almost like giving it gills. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, bending each cookie into a slight curve. Bake about 20 minutes until bottoms are brown. While cookies are baking sift confectioner’s sugar into a mixing bowl, add milk, salt and anise flavor and beat until smooth. This is a runny icing that will dry hard. When done baking, remove from each cookie from cookie sheet and cool them on a wire rack, then ice. Repeat with remaining half of dough and filling.

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Turtle Cookies

I found this recipe on the web while searching for McKenzie’s Bakery (a one-time huge chain of bakeries across Greater Metropolitan New Orleans). My grandmother had one near her house on Gentilly Blvd. and Elysian Fields and needless to say, these were a LARGE part of my childhood (along with Russian Cakes from Mr. Lawrence’s Bakery). I hope I cleaned this up enough that the fractions came out alright. Enjoy.

Turtle Cookies

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon maple flavored extract
60 pecan halves

2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Turtle Cookie.jpg

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, egg yolk, vanilla and maple flavoring. Set aside. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add dry ingredients gradually to the creamed mixture until you have smooth dough and then chill 2 hours. Shape dough into balls to make 12 equal balls. These should be shaped into ovals like a turtle body. Dip bottoms into little of egg white. Press pecan pieces into bottoms that have the egg white to form a head and the 4 feet for the turtles, place onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 to 12 minutes or until set and when cool, frost.
FROSTING-Melt chocolate, milk and butter. Beat in the sifted powdered sugar until smooth. Enjoy!

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