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Sicilian buccellati

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Sicilian buccellati are shortcrust pastry biscuits typical during the Christmas period. They are usually filled with dried figs, spices, jam, dried fruit and chocolate. This one we propose, however, is not the classic recipe that is usually made in the shape of a donut, but it is a very ancient recipe handed down from my great-grandmother that my grandmother prepared in smaller portions with her precious little hands. These baked desserts were not to be missed during the Christmas holidays with the intention of having them available for several months. These biscuits are characteristic and are called buccellati, cucciddati or purciddati in dialect, and depending on the area in which they are prepared there are many variations, both in shape and filling. In the province of Trapani, in Salemi, these sweets which long ago replaced panettone are called cannalicchi and differ from the others not only for the filling but also for the workmanship carried out by expert hands. “I still remember the skillful gestures of my grandmother Mattia, how she cut the pastry with small oblique cuts and then created, with her index finger and thumb, capricious curls, always with great skill to finally obtain the cannalicchia. In ancient times these buccellati were prepared a few times a year and had to last a long time. For this reason my grandmother made so many of them but they were so good that they lasted from Christmas to Boxing Day.” The family recipe does not include eggs in the dough but thanks to the presence of lard a crumbly shortcrust pastry is obtained. These buccellati with a crunchy crust and soft filling, once baked and cooled, are dusted with icing sugar or glazed with royal ice, called “marmuratu” in dialect, and decorated with many colored sprinkles.
I won't deny that preparing them takes a little time, but you already know that cooking something special takes patience and a lot of love. If prepared in advance they are perfect to give as gifts at Christmas!

The image of that woman with golden hands, whom I loved so much, will forever remain in my heart.
That woman was my grandmother.

RECIPE

  • 1 kg farina 00
  • 250 g sugar
  • 250 g lard
  • 1 sachet vanillin
  • 10 g ammonia for desserts
  • 250 ml latte at room temperature

For the filling

  • 500 g dried figs dried in the sun
  • slightly warm water to taste
  • 2 handfuls of shelled almonds lightly toasted
  • 10 peeled walnuts lightly toasted
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 Orange peel
  • 2 mandarin peels
  • ground cinnamon to taste

It will also serve you

  • slightly warm water to taste to knead the figs

For decoration

  • icing sugar to taste or royal icing and sugar sprinkles

First prepare the filling and the shortcrust pastry.

  • The figs should be left to soak in warm water for about 20 minutes, so that they soften. Then they should be drained and chopped with a meat grinder. Try to chop the rest of the ingredients alternating them with the figs.

  • Mix all the ingredients, preferably with your hands. You should obtain a full-bodied but soft mixture. Once ready, it should be covered and left to rest for about 2 hours. Better if prepared the night before. If prepared a few days in advance, it should be stored in the fridge.

Handmade shortcrust pastry

  • You can work by hand or use a stand mixer with a leaf hook, just follow the same procedure.On a work surface, form the classic flour fountain: insert the sugar, vanilla and chunks of lard in the center.
  • Rub with your hands trying to work all the dough.

  • As soon as the mixture takes on a sandy appearance, dissolve the ammonia in the milk and begin pouring it little by little. Mix all the ingredients trying to collect all the surrounding flour well.

  • Begin to form an elongated dough, folding the dough only horizontally. Try to bring the two ends inwards. Pay attention to this step, the dough must not be worked as if you were kneading bread. Work it with the knuckles of your fingers to compact the flour.

  • As soon as the dough is very compact and firm, form one or two sausages and store them in food bags. Let it rest for about 1 hour at room temperature.

Processing and filling

  • Once the resting time has passed, the dough can be worked.

  • Cut the sausage into pieces. Work them lightly and form cylinders as wide as a finger. Cut them into 2cm pieces and set aside. Put the rest of the dough back into the bag so it doesn't dry out.

  • Take the pieces of shortcrust pastry, first form a ball and then stretch it.

  • Place it on the work surface, press it in the center to obtain a groove. With the help of a round-tipped knife, take a little filling (about 1 teaspoon) and insert it into the center of the dough, trying to distribute it over the entire base.

  • Use your fingertips to close the dough, sealing the ends towards the center. Then, with the palm of your hand make a rotational movement, maintaining the elongated shape.

  • Position the joint downwards and begin processing: flatten it slightly and work it with the help of a razor blade or a sharp knife. Make oblique and thin cuts, starting from bottom to top.

  • Now start creating doodles, with a small movement made with your fingers roll the cut of dough inwards. Start from top to bottom. Little by little, place them on baking trays lined with baking paper.

  • Bake in ventilated mode at 170°C for 15-20 minutes, above the intermediate level of the oven.

  • As soon as they are well cooked, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Serve them with icing sugar, or create some royal icing and decorate them with colored sugar sprinkles.

Sicilian buccellati can be stored in airtight containers or boxes for a long time.
If you want to decorate them with royal icing, just follow the recipe for gingerbread biscuits.
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