In the pastry shops of Monemvassia, the beautiful Venetian fortressed port on the east coast of the Peloponnesos, these little crescents are a main attraction. I love the name—clearly Venetian, although the pastry itself is as Greek as one can get. Rafiolia are a specialty throughout this whole southeastern region of the Peloponnesos, all the way down to Neapoli. This recipe comes from a local cook in Molaous.
For the dough:
- 3 large eggs
- 1 scant teaspoon baking powder
- 3⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cups pastry flour
For the cinnamon dipping water:
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups water
For the filling:
- 1⁄2 pound ground walnuts
- 2 to 3 tablespoons plain bread crumbs or ground
- Greek rusks, as needed
- 1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon mastic crystals pounded with
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
- 1⁄4 cup water
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Prepare the dough: Beat the eggs in a large bowl until fluffy. Dissolve the baking powder in the orange juice and add it to the eggs, together with the oil. Beat together for several minutes until smooth and viscous. Add the flour in increments, mixing with a wooden spoon as you go, until a dough mass begins to form. Reserve about 1⁄2 cup and sprinkle onto a clean, dry work surface. Knead the dough until smooth, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. (The dough may be made ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before using.)
2. Prepare the cinnamon water: Place the cinnamon sticks in the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
3. Prepare the filling: Combine the ground walnuts, crumbs or rusks, cinnamon, and mastic mixture. Heat the honey, granulated sugar, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer the syrup until thick and bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately mix in the nuts. Let the filling cool.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly oil several baking sheets. Divide the dough into 6 little balls. Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll the first ball into a thin circle 12 to 15 inches in diameter. Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut circles out of the dough. Place a scant teaspoon of filling in the center and fold over to form a crescent. Dampen your fingertips with a little water and pinch the edges together to close completely. With the tines of a fork, make a decorative pattern along the edge. Continue until all the dough and filling are used up, rekneading, rerolling, and recutting the excess dough as you go. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
5. Have a plate ready with ample confectioners’ sugar. When the rafiolia are more or less cooled, dip them with a slotted spoon into the cool cinnamon water and immediately roll in the sugar. Serve or store in a closed cookie tin in a cool place. They will keep for about a week.