This morning I started the final stages of cucci making. I had high hopes, but I wasn’t really sure if they would turn out right or anything near how Grandma’s are. I set to work around ten o’clock. The first step was to roll out the little dough balls I had made yesterday into flat ovals. I quickly realized that things would go much faster with some help, so Andy came over and rolled out the dough for me until he had to go to work.
After the dough was rolled out, I placed a large spoonful of the fig/almond/orange zest/honey filling I made yesterday in the center of the dough and wrapped it up like a little package. Then I flipped it over, shaped it a little into roughly a kidney bean shape and then made decorative slits in the top with a razor blade. Then I repeated this over and over until I had a whole cookie sheet full.
Before going into the oven, the cookies were brushed with egg whites to glaze the tops. It is an optional step, but I like them better with the glaze. Then they went into the oven for around twenty minutes.
And finally, you can see how they came out. I made one hundred and two of them, so it took me five hours of work today in addition to the five hours of preparation yesterday. Whew! I mostly cut the tops the way Grandma usually does with tiny slits in the sides and some arcs across the tops, but I got a little crazy and did some flowers and birds on a few for fun. Dough doesn’t behave very well for carving.
The best part is, the cuccis actually taste just like Grandma’s, even on my first try. I was hopeful, but a bit skeptical as Grandma is a fantastic cook and has been making these for decades. So, after an entire weekend of cookie making, I have come to a few conclusions. These are my “lessons learned”:
-An insulated cookie sheet does not work for these cookies. I tried one on the first set into the oven and they didn’t quite cook right. Switched over to the regular kind of cookie sheet and everything was fine.
-If you are going to mix the dough in two separate batches, because there is so much of it, measure the flour instead of trying to eyeball how much is half of a five pound bag. I did this, and my dough was not consistent between the two batches. It all tastes fine, but next time I will measure or weigh the flour.
-If you run out of flour, even if you are just using it for rolling out the dough, whole grain flour will NOT do in a pinch. Go to the store. We did two or three cookies this way and then stopped and bought more flour.
-Invest in a good rolling pin. We bought a cheapo wooden one, and it made things a lot more difficult than they had to be.
-Watch your almonds carefully when you toast them. Move them around a lot and don’t try to do something else at the same time. I burned about $10 worth of almonds because I wasn’t paying attention and had to buy more.
And finally, I learned that my Grandma is one hell of a woman, because I am freakin’ exhausted. My back hurts from grinding up all those figs and kneading all that dough and standing for so long. It has been a lot of fun, but I am glad this experiment is over. I think that I’ll be making cuccis every Christmas now. I need to pack a box up to send to Grandma; she’ll be so proud!