Picciddati - Sicilian Christmas Ring Cakes

Picciddati di Natale

This traditional Sicilian Christmas dessert is filled with dried figs, almonds and walnuts.

  • Time

    1 hour and 30 minutes

  • Difficulty

    Difficult

  • Course

    Desserts and Fruit

  • Italian Region

    Sicily

Ingredients

For pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz baking powder
  • water to taste

For filling

  • 1 lb dried figs
  • 2 ½ oz almonds, peeled
  • 2 ½ oz walnuts, peeled
  • 2 ½ oz raisins
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 2 egg yolks

Preparation

1 hour preparation + 30 minutes cooking

In a cup, mix the yeast with a little warm water. Let rest for 5 minutes, then stir in the flour. Eventually, add a little more water and knead the bread actively until you have a smooth, uniform dough. Then, let the dough rise in a warm, dry place for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, soak the raisins in a cup of warm water to soften. Once soft, drain them and transfer them to a bowl with the nuts, dried figs and almonds, all previously chopped finely. Add a little cinnamon powder.

Then, stir in the honey and transfer everything into a pot. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Then remove from the heat and let cool.

Once the dough has risen, roll it out using a rolling pin or pasta machine. You are looking to make 2 inch wide and 1/10 inch thick sheets.

Once the filling is cool, shape it into 1 ½ inch wide logs. Place the filling on a sheet of dough and bring together the edges of the dough, wrapping the filling.  Then cut 8 inch long pieces and bring the ends of each piece together, forming a ring. Use the tip of a knife to puncture the dough so that the hot air can escape during cooking.

Brush the dough with beaten egg yolks. Place the rings on a baking sheet greased with butter or lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 275° F oven for 30 minutes or until golden.

The “picciddati” can be serve both hot or at room-temperature.

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Food History

Fig trees have been cultivated by man for over 10,000 years and were probably one of the first fruit trees to be cultivated due to how easily they produce fruit.
In Ancient times, figs were extremely sweet and rich in nutrients. They were enjoyed by almost all cultures and were known both as aphrodisiacs, as well as symbols of knowledge and truth. In Ancient Egypt, the fig tree was known as the plant of life and its wood was often used to build sarcophaguses, while its fruit was considered a symbol of immortality. In Ancient Greece, figs were believed to bring you physical well being and improve one’s oratory abilities. It is believed that Plato ate figs in large quantities. In Ancient Rome, the fig tree was considered sacred due to the legend that Romolo, the founder of the Eternal City, was nursed by a she-wolf under the branches of a fig tree.

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