Happy Hanukkah! Today’s recipe is a traditional sweet from the town of Pitigliano, in western Tuscany. Pitigliano once had thriving Jewish community dating back to the 14th century. It was known as Little Jerusalem and Gentiles and Jews lived together in harmony until the imposition of Mussolini’s racial laws. Although the population has diminished, the Jewish presence in Pitigliano lives on - you can visit the ghetto, the synagogue and even the bakery that was opened once a year in preparation for Passover. The sfratti are the typical walnut and honey pastries of Pitigliano, still baked and sold in the bakeries and pastry shops of the village. They have the shape of a stick, a filling of chopped walnuts, honey, spices and orange peel covered with a thin unleavened pastry dough. The shape represents the rods with which the Jews were evicted during their persecutions. Though they were originally made for Rosh Hashanah, I find these a lovely addition to a Christmas cookie platter.
Sfratti (From Pamela Sheldon Johns’ “Cucina Povera”)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
pinch of slat
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sweet white wine
1 cup honey
4 cups walnuts, chopped
2 tsps. grated orange zest
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 egg yolk, beaten
For the pastry: In a large bowl, combine, the flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. Stir in the olive oil and wine to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the honey over medium heat. Add the walnuts, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Divide the chilled dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll a piece of dough into a 4 x 10-inch rectangle. Spoon 1/2 cup of the filling along the center of the length of the dough and roll it up. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Transfer the pastries from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. To serve, cut each pastry into 1-inch thick slices and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Makes about 6 dozen slices