According to Joyce Goldstein, author of Cucina Ebraica, a book of traditional Italian-Jewish recipes, the name of these cookies comes from the sticks used by villainous landlords of yore to beat off their indigent tenants, when they could not pay their rent. Sfratti means "evicted." It is a bit of a dark joke, it would seem, since this symbol of bitter,hard times is both sweet, and rich. Mine don't look much like sticks; they are supposed to be fingerlength, but that seemed too long to me, based on cookie considerations. So I made them a bit shorter, and they look more like fireplace logs.
Sfratti are, for no particular reason I can see, usually considered a Rosh Hashanah cookie, and hence not seasonal at the moment. Nowadays, though, when you can buy the Hammentachen of Purim and hot cross buns of Good Friday all year round-why not indulge? These cookies are tasty and festive, without being gooey, a relative, perhaps, of the Eastern European rugelach? In any event, I think they will suit my elderly mother, and plan to take her some to have with her tea.
Ms. Goldstein attributes this recipe to La cucina maremamma by Aldo Santini, which introduced her to the pastry/cookie dough wrap, made with sweet wine, instead of water. Butter or margarine can be used, she says, depending upon whether a meat or dairy meal is planned. Personally, if I kept a kosher home, I would serve them only with dairy-for margarine would spoil the taste, for me. I fooled around with the recipe slightly, adding some orange flower water, because I thought it would be good, and in keeping with the other flavors. I still think so, having tasted them.
These cookies are a bit tricky, and although Ms. Goldstein did not mention it, I would advise rolling the dough between waxed paper sheets. I would also advise chilling it in the fridge a bit whenever it gets sticky, and again just before baking. Otherwise it may be melty and hard to manoever. The filling is really a sort of candy, made separately and then assembled with the dough-so once it is baked and cooled it has a little more presence than the usual nut filling. Sfratti are darkly sweet, and nice to chew. They taste sort of figgy, though they don't have figs in them. I used a dark, buckwheat honey, which may have something to do with this flavor.
To make them you need:
all purpose flour 3 cups
sugar 1 cup
butter 5 1/2 oz
sweet wine 2/3 cup, plus possibly a bit more- I used madeira
honey 2/3 cup
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground cloves 1/4 tsp
orange flower water 1 tbsp
nuts, chopped 2 cups walnuts are traditional- I used a combo, mostly walnuts
grated citrus zest 2 tsp
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk beaten with a tbsp water
First make the dough.Put the dry ingredients in a food processor with the butter, cubed. Pulse until an oatmeal like texture is reached. Pour in the wine while the processor is running, and stop as soon as the dough comes together. You may need a bit more wine.
Divide the dough in half, and put each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to form each into a flat approximate rectangle. Wrap well and chill 2 hours. Roll each rectangle between two sheets of waxed paper into an approximate 12" square, and than cut each into 3 long strips 4"X12". Wrap and refrigerate.
Then make the filling. Put the honey and the rest of the ingredients, except the nuts, into a small heavy pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, and simmer until it thickens to form a ribbon. This takes 10-15 minutes. The original recipe suggests a much longer time. Mine would have been tar, however. Turn off the heat, stir in the nuts, and dust a cool surface (marble if you have one) lightly with flour. As soon as you can touch the nuts without burning yourself, pour the mix onto the floured surface. Using your hands and squeezing and pressing bits together, form six 12" snakes of nut candy. Work quickly, as it will harden as it cools.
Preheat oven to 375F. Remove dough from fridge. Set a strand of nut filling in the center of each length of dough, and roll the dough round it, sealing it as best you can. Wrap and chill the filled rolls. Line baking sheets with parchment. Slice the rolls into cookies of the desired length and set them on the baking sheets. Brush with egg glaze. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden, turning pan around once during baking, for even browning. Move to a rack to cool.
These are very nice, and a bit unusual-with good and slightly exotic flavors. I'm not sure that I'll make them again soon, though. There are so many cooky recipes that are delicious and much less of a project. There were lots of dishes to do and surfaces to wipe with these, and there is some struggle involved in rolling the sticky dough. Still, they are particularly good with tea- a key cookie test for me.