Honey and nut pastries

Honey and nut pastries

Sfratti

By
From
Acquacotta
Makes
6 sfratti
Photographer
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

There are still a handful of bakeries and little shops in Pitigliano that sell these stick-shaped, hardy rolls of pastry filled with walnuts and honey. These delicious pastries are the town’s most famous gastronomic tradition, and have survived despite their origins in the Jewish community, which no longer exists in Pitigliano.

The pastry’s name comes from the Italian word for eviction, sfratto, and it is no coincidence that their stick-like appearance matches that of the batons once used by authorities attempting to evict Jews from their community.

Edda Servi Machlin writes, ‘Much of Jewish food lore is based on reproducing, in a sweet form, some symbolic item of unhappy events of the past as a reminder of the constant and dreadful danger of their recurrence and also to ward off such a possibility.’ Almost like a good luck charm. In fact, even the non-Jewish Pitiglianesi adopted this idea, and sfratti became a must-have to serve at weddings and other special occasions, for good fortune.

This recipe is adapted from Edda Servi Machlin’s in The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews. Sometimes you’ll find the pastry made like a shortcrust pastry, which would be crumblier and softer and some like to brush the sfratti with beaten egg yolk for a shiny glaze. But I like this one of Edda’s, which is hard (almost brittle), but thin and so basic. It is more like the ones I’ve tried from Pitigliano.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

Pastry

Quantity Ingredient
350g plain flour
150g sugar
pinch salt
125ml dry white wine
80ml olive oil

Filling

Quantity Ingredient
350g honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 orange, finely grated zest
350g shelled walnuts, chopped very finely
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs

Method

  1. For the pastry, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the wine and the oil into the well and whisk the mixture together with a fork, moving from the centre outwards, gradually incorporating more dry ingredients. You want a smooth but quite firm dough. Knead for a few minutes, then roll into a disc shape (with a flattened top), cover in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. To make the filling, put the honey in a saucepan and melt over high heat (watch carefully that it doesn’t bubble over). Add the spices, orange zest and nuts, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, then transfer to a bowl to let the mixture cool, turning occasionally to speed up the cooling process – it will be very thick and sticky. When cool enough to handle, divide the honey and nut mixture into six portions. I find a knife works best for this. With wet hands, shape the filling into logs about 2.5 cm thick.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  4. Divide the dough into six portions. With a rolling pin, roll out strips about 10 x 25 cm. Put a honey and nut log in the middle of the strip (make sure there is a little space for both ends of the ‘log’ to be sealed) and wrap the dough around it, overlapping slightly, to cover all the filling completely. Roll the entire pastry with both hands to seal and even out the dough, then place on the baking tray, seal side down. Press down on the ends to seal and tuck the extra pastry underneath.
  5. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the dough is still quite pale but dry to the touch. Let it cool completely.
  7. Wrap the cooled sfratti in aluminium foil; they keep well like this for weeks without refrigeration (there are no eggs or dairy in this recipe). If you can wait, they taste better a day or two later. Cut into 1 cm thick rounds and serve with coffee, but more traditional would be with a glass of vin santo or other dessert wine.
Tags:
Italian
Tuscany
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