Xerotigano, the “sweet rose” of Crete

Xerotigano is the “sweet rose” of Crete served in weddings, baptisms and holidays like Christmas. Quick-fried spirals of thin dough dipped in honey syrup and then sprinkled with cinnamon, walnuts, and sesame seeds are prepared as a welcome and pleasing treat for guests and visitors. Its phyllo is very delicate and it’s not easy at all to prepare but worthy trying anyway!

xerotigana2You’ll need:

  • 125 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) raki (tsikoudia)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice
  • 450 gm (3 cups) plain flour

For deep-frying: sunflower oil, 120 gm sesame seeds coarsely crushed, 120 gm walnuts coarsely crushed, 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Spiced honey syrup: 440 gm (2 cups) white sugar, 2 cinnamon quills, 6 whole cloves, 160 gm honey, preferably thyme honey, Juice of 1/2 lemon


  • Combine vegetable oil, raki, lemon juice and 375ml lukewarm water in a large bowl, add flour and mix well until a sticky dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead well until dough no longer sticks to your hands (4-5 minutes), transfer to a plastic bag and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Divide dough into 8. Working with one piece at a time, lightly flour dough, then feed through a pasta machine, starting at the widest setting and reducing settings notch by notch down to the fourth setting, flouring and folding as you go, to form a 60cm x 12cm sheet. Cut each sheet lengthways into 4cm-wide strips with a serrated pastry wheel and set aside in a single layer on a lightly floured tray.
  • Working with one pastry strip at a time, loosely loop around your index and middle fingers, then loop again around three fingers then once again around four fingers to form a loose spiral. Press end to seal and set aside.
  • Preheat sunflower oil in a deep saucepan to 180C. Place a pastry spiral on the handle of a wooden spoon, then carefully lower into oil (be careful as hot oil will spit). Cook, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp (1-2 minutes), drain on absorbent paper, repeat with remaining spirals and set aside to cool.
  • For spiced honey syrup, stir sugar, spices and 250ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the simmer and cook until infused (6-8 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in honey and lemon juice and keep warm.
  • Dry-roast sesame seeds in a frying pan until golden and combine with walnuts and cinnamon in a bowl. Dip pastry spirals one by one into hot syrup, remove with a slotted spoon to drain excess syrup, then dip in walnut mixture. Shake off excess, transfer to a tray and serve. Xerotigana will keep stored in an airtight container for a week.

Recipe and photo credit: gourmettraveller.com.au

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