These stick-shaped treats derive their name from the Italian word “sfratto”, meaning eviction. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as is the custom amongst Jews from many different cultures and backgrounds, the Jews of Tuscany would surround themselves with symbolic foods, whose names also derived from, or alluded to, proclamations about the year ahead, through ingenious wordplay. They would mention the name of the food and use an extraction or alliteration of the word to ask for the year to come to be fruitful, or to pray that our enemies stay far away from us.
The Sfratti sweet honey and nut-filled biscuits fulfilled a number of traditions that we see throughout Jewish practice. Firstly, with reference to the play on words, we hope in the year to come, these Sfratti articulate our wish not to be “sfratto” – evicted from our homes. Secondly, the “stick” shape alludes to our hope that the ‘stick’ is not used on us physically or figuratively to beat us down; and finally, we invoke the Jewish concept of turning our most bitter memories and experiences into something sweet in the future and then eating them. The two examples this calls to mind are Oznei Haman (Hamentashen), the Purim treat named after the villain of the story, and the mortar-like Charoset that we eat on Pesach. Although it is meant to represent the mortar the Jews had to make while building for their Egyptian overlords, it is made using sweet wine, nuts and fruit.
The Sfratti are indeed an old-world treat, but their unique, homey flavor and their associated history means that I intend on introducing them to my regular repertoire.
*though the original recipe calls for sweet wine in the dough, we developed this recipe during the corona crisis and couldn’t get a hold of sweet wine, so we used milk and almond milk in our various trials and were really happy with the results. But do feel free to use sweet wine if you want to capture the old world flavor.
** If you are a vegan who eats honey and you would like to make this recipe vegan friendly replace the egg wash with a brush of water or non-dairy milk.
***Don’t be tempted to raise the temperature under the honey, as it easily burns.
For the Pastry:
- 360g (3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 200g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 75g (⅓ cup) chilled butter (or margarine), cut into 1 cm cubes
- 160ml (⅔ cup) milk (or non-dairy alternative)
For the filling:
- 225g (⅔ cup) honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 200g (2 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash (see note above)
Make the pastry:
Place the flour, sugar, salt and chilled butter (or margarine) in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed. Add the milk (or non-dairy alternative) into the food processor, and pulse until the dough starts to lump together. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead a few times until the dough comes together, divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each one into a flattish disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Alternatively, you can do this by hand, rub the butter into the flour and sugar mixture until the butter is evenly distributed (to the point that you can see or feel and bits of butter, and the milk and start kneading until the dough comes together.
Make the filling:
In a heavy-bottomed pot over a medium to low flame, bring the honey to a boil, add the cinnamon and ginger and keep on a steady low boil until the honey, when dropped back onto itself in the pot, forms a ribbon shape that holds for a second or two (about 10 minutes). Add the walnuts, citrus zest, and pepper and keep on a low simmer for another 10 minutes mixing constantly.
Take off the heat and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes, as soon as its cool enough to handle without burning yourself, and pour the filling onto a well-floured surface. Divide the filling into 6 sections and quickly shape each section into a long thin stick about 12inchs, alow to cool.
Baking and Assembly:
Heat the oven to 180℃ (350℉), line a cookie sheet with baking paper and set aside.
Divide each disk of dough into three pieces. Working with one piece at a time, knead the dough a bit on a well-floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 13inches long by 6 inches wide. Use your honey and nut sticks as a guide to how long each piece of dough should be.
Place a honey and walnut stick lengthwise along the long end of the dough and wrap the dough around the filling. Place the dough wrapped stick on the cookie sheet seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Brush the tops and sides of the Sfratti with beaten egg (see note). And bake for 25-30 minutes until Golden.
When completely cool wrap in foil. Moments before serving cut the Sfratti into bit sized pieces.