Several people have requested the recipes for the holiday cookies. Although not the prettiest cookies I have ever seen, I think these would be perfect not only for Rosh Hashanah but also for breaking the fast on Yom Kippur as they are not terribly sweet. And they also would be good for any Mah Jongg table!
According to The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin, “There was a time when the law that prevailed was the ‘law of the stick.’ When landlords could not collect from poor tenants, they would evict them with the persuasive aid of a stick. The same treatment was applied to the Jews when they were no longer wanted in a community.”
“The Jewish fascination with depressing desserts in general, can be interpreted either as an attempt to dust a little sugar over bad memories–or to immortalize the centuries of oppression and scorn as if to say, ‘Even in the good times, we must remember the bad.’ Consuming a dessert that represents a negative experience inherently implies that the Jewish people have not only survived through the era of hardships, but thrived enough to have a little dessert. In other words, sfratti–like hamantaschen or haroset–are a tasty embodiment of the celebratory phrase: ‘They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!'”
Recipes follow…SFRATTI – Sfratti means “sticks” in Italian, as well as “evicted,” for at one time landlords were allowed to persuade unwanted and delinquent tenants to leave by force of a rod. A similar practice was employed to chase away Jews during all-too-frequent periods of expulsion. This nut-filled cookie, a popular Italian Rosh Hashanah treat, got its name from its resemblance to a stick, the Jewish sense of humor transforming an object of persecution into a sweet symbol.
|For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter
2/3 cup sweet wineFor the filling:
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
Pinch of freshly ground black pepperAll-purpose flour for dusting
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash
Chill a pastry board (I put a marble pastry board in the freezer while the dough was refrigerating).
To make the dough:
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a
pastry blender until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
Add the wine and stir and toss with a fork until the mixture just holds
together. Remove the dough and gather into a ball. (The dough can
also be made in a food processor, pulsing it to cut in the butter and
processing to bring the dough together and this is exactly what I did.)Divide the dough in half and flatten each half into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.To make the filling:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the honey to a boil and cook for
5 minutes. Be careful, it may foam up. Add the remaining filling ingredients and cook, stirring constantly, for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is cool enough to handle without burning you but not set (I made the mistake of tasting it to see if it was cool enough to handle and I burned my lip – be careful – this stuff is HOT!). Dust the chilled board with flour. Pour the honey and nut mixture onto the chilled and floured board, and using your hands, divide into 6 equal portions, and shape the portions into 14-inch-long sticks. Act quickly as the mixture sets up fast!
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Butter 1 or 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper. (I used a Silpat).
On a lightly floured board, divide both disks of dough into 3 equal pieces each. Roll out each piece into a 4-inch-wide long rectangle (mine were around 12 – 14″ long and 4″ wide), place a nut strip near a long side of each rectangle and roll up from the filling side, fully enclosing the nut paste. Cut into 2″ pieces. Place on the prepared baking sheet(s) with the seam side down, leaving 1 inch between the cookies; brush each cookie with the egg wash.
Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Wrap in aluminum foil until ready to serve.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. (They’ll never last that long!)