Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Very Vegan Gluten-Free Christmas: Cucidatis

For our California Christmases, one tradition stands above all others- the sugar bomb known as the cucidati. A staple of our childhood ever since the St. Joseph's altars of our Catholic school days, these fig cookies joyously came back into our lives several years ago in one amazing holiday season that saw at least 3 batches being made and promptly enjoyed.

This year, we had the added challenge of transitioning our favorite diabetic coma in convenient handheld form into a gluten-free treat. Would the cucidati successfully make this leap in desserty evolution, or would Christmas be ruined?

Adapted from
Previously seen here in gluteny form
Servings: 12-16 thumbprint cookies
Time: 90 minutes (inactive for 45 of that)

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
3/4 tbsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan veggie shortening
1/2 large egg substitute (Ener-G)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy milk + more for icing
Fig Jam
Powdered sugar
Almond extract
Colored sprinkles

What they normally look like without thumbprint intervention.
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or cut it into small pieces and mash into the flour mixture by hand until it resembles corn meal.
  4. Beat the egg substitute, vanilla and soy milk together in a separate bowl.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the flour in a stand mixer and mix for about 3 minutes until a soft dough forms.
  6. Divide into two pieces and refrigerate in plastic wrap for 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  8. Roll one piece of dough out at a time into 12" squares on a floured surface.
  9. Get increasingly angry as the dough continually breaks apart.
  10. Have your sister save Christmas by forming them into thumbprint cookies instead (make a small round cookie and press down on the center with your thumb).
  11. Fill the thump print in with fig jam.
  12. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until they begin to golden.
  13. Let cool on a wire rack.
  14. Mix soy milk with copious amounts of powdered sugar and ~1 tsp of almond extract (or really however much you want that almond finish. Just be careful. A little goes a long way). The end result should be smooth and fairly thick.
  15. Ice the tops of each cucidati cookie and sprinkle with fun colors. Be sure to sprinkle them quickly before the icing dries and magnificently repels the sprinkles off.
  16. Enjoy a minimum of 4 at a time and then curse the terrible sugar crash.
Literally everyone wanted to get their hands on them.
Initially, all hope seemed lost. Two attempts at making cucidatis proved unsuccessful, and our bodies were shaking with the need for sugar. Then, my sister got a truly inspired idea. These cucidatis didn't have to look like cucidatis, they simply had to taste like them! (I'm pretty sure we saw a light bulb magically appear.) By turning these into thumbprint cookies, we were able to stuff our mouths jam-packed with all the sugar our inner child ever desired. Now, I have just under a year to perfect these as a gluten-free dessert. My current thought is that the dough just isn't as well formed with the gluten-free all-purpose flour and other alternative flours need to be explored (with almond flour being the suspected savior). Unfortunately, this means I have batches upon batches of cucidatis to consume. I just hope I'm up to the challenge...
Lowercase "q" enjoys his first Christmas and his awesome new balcony yard
Our Very Vegan Gluten-Free Christmas surpassed all my initially skeptical expectations. We had several amazing days of fine meals, family, and Christmas classics (like The X-Files). Do we really have to wait all year for it to come again?

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