Our loyal and frequent Untourist Joanne Choyka made a cool discovery last fall in Tuscany.
This is a photo taken last fall in Pitigliano, in Tuscany. My grandparents immigrated from this town to the US in the early 1900’s. My grandfather took a job working at the Hershey Chocolate factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where my mother was born.
I felt their presence when I visited this lovely hill town. As my husband and I visited, we came upon a tour guide speaking about the Jewish community that lived here. They were also giving out samples of a Jewish nut-filled pastry called sfratti, which my mother would make.
It was interesting to learn of the symbolism of this delicacy made by the Italian Jewish community. I just assumed my Mom was baking another kind of Italian nut roll for us, little did I know of its history. Here is our family recipe.
For the dough:
2 ½ cups flour
4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons oil
2 tablespoon milk
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl
beat eggs, then add oil and milk. Add the egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture.
Mix well and then knead the dough. Keep the oil handy to rub over your hands, while
kneading. Set dough aside and make the filling.
For the walnut filling:
1 1/3 cups honey
1 lb. chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon orange rind
In a saucepan over low/medium heat, cook honey slowly for about a half hour. Add nuts
and rind. Cook, stirring constantly, until it forms a ball when you drop a teaspoon or so in cold
water; about 15 minutes.
Cool the nut mixture until it cools enough to handle. Roll into a rope, using cold water on your hands to keep from burning. You can make several ropes of 12 – 14 in. long. Set aside each roll
Roll out dough very thin, stretching dough as you roll. Lay the rope of walnut mixture on
The dough and cover well, with seam down. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Sfratto is the Italian word eviction. These honey nut sticks resemble the sticks that were used to evict people long ago, a threat that moved unwanted people along.
We are looking forward to celebrating La Vigilia. I think we get up to 4 or 5 fishes, not the traditional 7! I know that my Mom is looking down from heaven and wishing she were with us, but also delighting to know how, as time advances, we embrace our heritage.
Read about Joanne’s Tuscan cooking exploits here, and get a good gnocchi recipe.