EDIT 28-11-2006: Made these again for Thanksgiving. The one major change was in the assembly, which apparently was not done properly for the batch below (but I'd only seen them once or twice before making up this recipe, so pls to not kick me too hard). A corrected version, in bold, has just been added to the appropriate section in this entry. I think you'll actually end up with more cookies and a much better filling-to-dough ratio this way.
Also, I toyed around with a few other things just for fun, so any bold-text additions to the ingredients lists are this year's alterations.
Oh goodness me. My grandma and mom made these one year and told me, "No, you can't have any, you won't like them." When I finally tried one anyway, I realized they'd told me that to keep me purposely ignorant of the joy of fig cookies (more for them). After I-don't-know-how-long without a cucidati, and still a whole week and a half before I get to go home and make these, it became too much and I whipped up my first batch tonight.
Oh yes indeed.
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1/3 c. fine sugar (1/3 c. Sucanat also works)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
replacer for 1 egg (1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch OR Ener-G powder)
1/2 c. shortening
2 T. Earth Balance
1/2 c. vanilla soy (OR almond) milk
1 T. vanilla extract
Measure dry ingredients (including dry cornstarch/Ener-G powder) into bowl and mix well. Cut in shortening and margarine until you have a coarse blend with pea-sized pieces. Knead in soymilk and vanilla, just until it turns into dough. Place in bowl, cover in saran wrap, and chill while you prepare the filling.
8 oz. dried figs (one round package/"garland")
4 oz. (OR 6 oz.) pitted dates (make sure there's no sugar added!)
1/3 c. silvered almonds (OR 1/3 c. chopped toasted pecans)
1/2 tsp. aniseed (AND/OR scant 1/2 tsp. cloves)
2 T. hot water (OR 2 T. warmed orange juice)
juice of 1/2 small lemon
heaping 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (totally kick this up to heaping 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. ginger (OR 1/2 tsp. fresh orange zest)
1/4 c. light agave nectar (OR something like that rice syrup stuff sold as a honey substitute)
(Note: Some people also use things like golden raisins, candied citrus peel and other candied fruits, different nuts, and coordinating spices such as cloves and allspice. I prefer to keep it simple and concentrate on the fig and date textures and flavors, but experiment to find what you like best. I'm trying orange in place of lemon for the next batch.)
Using clean scissors, remove fig stems, then snip the figs and dates into small pieces into a bowl. Place in blender/processor with warm water/juice and begin grinding to a coarse paste. (If your blender is kind of sucky, like mine, you may need to grind it just a bit at a time.) While grinding, gradually add nuts and zest, if using. Scoop into mixing bowl and stir in spices and agave nectar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F. Roll dough out to like maybe 1/4" to 1/3" thick or thereabouts.
Corrected version: You'll want the piece of dough to be wide enough to accommodate the filling, which is spread down the center third. Fold the other two thirds over the filling and press sort of flat together, one on top of the other, and pinch the seam securely shut. Cut the roll into even pieces, preferably at an angle: if the roll is kind of wide, cut the pieces short lengthwise, and if it's narrow, cut them longer. It's okay if you have to make a few smaller rolls instead of doing one mega-roll all at once. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with the seam sort of facing the bottom and bake as directed below. The filling doesn't really leak out during baking so there shouldn't be much of a mess.
Using a round cookie cutter about 2"-3" in diameter (I just used the rim of the glass that was also acting as my rolling pin), cut circles from the dough. Working with one circle at a time, roll over it just a wee bit more to make it slightly oval. With the longer edge horizontal to you, spread a heaping teaspoon of filling vertically down the center third of the oval. Flatten somewhat, spreading the filling to the top and bottom edge. To seal, bring the sides up and pinch together, then roll down and press in place. (They're going to turn out looking sort of like mini cannoli.) Repeat until all filling and dough circles are used. (I got 21, with 2-3 cookies' worth of filling left. The only logical option is to whip up a whole 'nother batch and use it up, right?)
Arrange on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake 20-30 minutes or until a very light golden-brown. Remove from oven and let cool on racks. When cool to the touch, top with the following:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 shot anisette liqueur (OR amaretto)
Combine sugar and liqueur in a bowl. Add a very small amount of soymilk and whisk with a fork. Add more as needed until a thick glaze forms. Drizzle over cooled cookies.
any large-grain sugar with a light natural color (yay turbinado!)
food coloring (the kind that comes as four little bottles in a package; these colors are usually vegan, and are cheap and work just fine if you don't mind them being artificial)
Pour an amount of sugar into a small dry bowl. Add 1-2 drops food coloring and stir with a fork. Spread sugar out over a paper towel to dry. When dry, break up any clumps, and sprinkle over your icing.
Pick out the prettiest ones (even though they all taste the same), package up nicely, and use to bribe your Italian professor during finals week.