So today was the anniversary of the creation of the world. In Jewish tradition, the time up to sundown today is for reflection and seeking forgiveness, and the festival is apparently marked by plenty of honey. Apples are dipped into honey to symbolise the wish for a sweet new year, and challah bread with honey is shared.
The Rosh Hashanah recipe I tried today was another honey treat, like nothing I’ve ever baked or eaten before. These were sfratti biscuits, in structure like fig rolls (the central stickiness a mixture of honey and nuts and spices, reminiscent of baklava,with a black pepper kick that reminded me of Croatian paprenjaci biscuits) but with a pastry made with wine instead of milk, giving them a sophistication well beyond the fig roll.
They’re thought-provoking biscuits to be nibbled while considering the forgiveness you need to seek and offer. You might be surprised how many you get through…
I adapted the recipe at www.myJewishlearning.com, as follows, to make about 25 biscuits
1.5 cups plain flour
0.5 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
0.5 cup honey
1 cup chopped walnuts (I made another batch with crushed almonds which tasted great)
grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
pinch ground black pepper
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, rubbing in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the wine a little at a time, mixing with a fork to moisten the dough. Continue adding wine until the dough just holds together. Divide dough in half and press into balls. Flatten balls into discs, then wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the honey to the boil. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring constantly for another 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat. (If the mixture begins turn dark, it is starting to burn–remove from the heat immediately and keep stirring).
Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until it is cool enough to handle. Transfer it onto a floured surface, divide into 6 equal portions, and shape the portions into long sticks, as thin as they can be before they break.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each disc of dough into a rectangle the length of your honey-nut mixture sticks, then cut each rectangle lengthwise into three long rectangles. Roll dough around each stick of filling and then cut each long stick into 2-inch sticks. Place seam side down on a prepared baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, leaving space between the biscuits. Brush with egg.
Bake biscuits until golden – about 20 minutes – and cool before eating.
For more recipes and adventures in honey eating, see my Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published last year by Signal Books.