On the Ninth Day of Martin & Sylvia's Twelve Days of Christmas Story Collection, Martin and Sylvia are throwing a big party with neighbors and friends. Sylvia has the event completely planned out, but right from the start circumstances get in the way. Momma encourages Sylvia to make room for change, and they listen to the Tullyport Christmas Tale “Blueberry Buccellati.”
In “Blueberry Buccellati,” Georgio Mangiapane wants to make the best buccellati in all of New York City. Having heard of the magical blueberries of the northeastern coast, he travels to Maine to find the perfect ingredient. But a bear interrupts his dream, and it’s not New York that gets to enjoy his incredible pastries, but the families of Tullyport, Maine.
Inspired by the story, Sylvia takes Georgio's lesson to go with the flow to heart, and as a result, she is dazzled by some magical surprises.
Buccellati are a traditional Christmas cookie from Sicily. A made-from-scratch cousin of Fig Newtons, these cookies are filled with a paste of figs, nuts, and spices, then cut into interesting shapes to expose their jewel-like filling. A bit of icing and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios seals the deal — these cookies need to become a part of your holiday rotation.
They're not hard to make, but you do need to plan ahead. Both the dough and the fig paste are better if they have 24 hours to meld flavors before you bake them off, so you should prep them the day before you need the completed cookies.
In a nod to our story, this recipe substitutes blueberry jam for the traditional apricot. At first I was unsure if this flavor pairing would work, but it actually makes for a nice marriage of Sicily and Maine — the blueberry mostly just makes the figs taste more figgy. Feel free to sub another kind of jam if you would like, and the same goes for the nuts. As long as you have the same total amount of nuts, it's fine to swap in your favorites or what you have on hand. Be like Sylvia and Georgio and see what magic comes from going with the flow!
(makes 20-24 cookies)
- For the fig paste:
½ pound dried figs
½ cup raisins
⅓ cup shelled pistachios
¾ cup walnuts
3 tablespoons honey
⅓ cup blueberry jam
Zest of 1 orange
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- For the dough:
¼ cups flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) of butter
- For the icing and decoration:
1 egg white
1 cup powdered sugar
A few handfuls of chopped pistachios or sprinkles
Begin by pulling any stems off the figs and soaking them in hot water for 10 minutes. Then, drain the water, roughly chop the softened figs, and process them in a food processor until they turn to paste. Scrape the fig paste into a small bowl, and quickly wipe out the food processor with a damp towel.
Next add the nuts to the food processor. Pulse them to coarse crumbs, but be careful not to let the food processor go so long that they begin to turn into paste.
With the crumbly nuts still in the food processor, add the fig paste back in along with the raisins, honey, jam, orange zest, and cinnamon. Process until all are well combined, then scoop the mixture out into a small bowl. Store it covered in the fridge for 24 hours to let the flavors meld.
Now it's onto the dough. Wipe out the bowl of your food processor again, then add the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and pulse it into the flour mixture until the mixture looks coarse and crumbly. Add the eggs, pulsing the processor after each addition until the dough is smooth and combined. You'll think that this dough is too dry to possibly stick together to at first, but — just when you're beginning to worry — it will come together into the perfect ball of dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and store it covered in the fridge for 24 hours.
Once you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350° and cut the dough into 4 portions. Keeping the portions you aren't working on covered in the fridge, roll 1 portion of the dough out onto a floured cutting surface. Your goal is to make a long, snake-like shape, which should measure about 5 inches across.
Lay out a line of fig paste in the center of the dough, then roll the dough around the fig paste to make a long rope shape. Place the dough rope seam side down and cut it into shapes.
The tiny crescents pictured are one of many traditional shapes.
You can make them by cutting the dough rope into 4-inch sections, making several little cuts in one side, then bending the dough out to form a semi-circle. Place the shaped cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Repeat this process with the remaining dough.
When all the cookies are finished, make the icing. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg white until it starts to get frothy, then begin whisking in powdered sugar until it's all incorporated. Drizzle the icing over the cookies, sprinkle chopped pistachios or sprinkles over the top, then bake the cookies for an additional 3 minutes to set the icing.
You'll probably have a bit of extra fig paste with this recipe, but it's so delicious that it isn't a hardship to have leftovers. Keep it in the fridge and use it on toast or stir it into a bowl of oatmeal — basically it will be amazing anywhere you would ordinarily use jam. Enjoy!
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.