If there is one holiday dessert that is truly revered among many Italians, it is struffoli. Since my childhood, my sister and I have been making struffoli with our mother and our grandma Sue. As an adult, I would prepare catering trays to happy customers every December. Suffice to say, for Italians, especially Neapolitans, this is a dessert that actually fills the air with excitement simply by discussing the preparation.
For those you who are not familiar with struffoli, they are a very traditional Italian Christmas treat that you have surely seen in local Italian bakeries and maybe even a holiday office party. First, a smooth dough is formed. Next, we roll the dough into strips in order to cut marble-sized balls. We then fry the dough balls to a tender crisp and bath them in sweet honey. Nonpareils are the grand finale in making this a festive dessert keeping with the spirit of the holiday.
There are many recipes out there for struffoli and also a lot of opinions on the very best way to prepare the dough. Some Italian-Americans keep it simple and use just flour and water. Other families prefer a richer dough and compliment the struffoli with citrus zest and limoncello. My recipe has a bit of a cookie texture. We use baking powder as a leavening agent, and this allows the struffoli to puff nicely while frying in the oil.
No matter what recipe you use, struffoli will lead the way toward a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I want to thank so many of my readers and followers who emailed me requesting the recipe for this tantalizing dessert. It is my pleasure to respond during this season where struffoli is among the most anticipated of holiday foods.
My best wishes to one and all during this joyous season!
Recipe for Struffoli
2 pounds flour (all purpose)
1 cup sugar
3 1/ 2 teaspoons baking powder
7 extra large eggs
1/3 cup shortening ( I use Crisco)
1 ounce vanilla extract
Add flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, shortening and vanilla to bowl of electric mixer. Using paddle attachment, mix until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Special note** Don't despair if you don't own an electric mixer. Neither did the phenomenal cooks and bakers of past centuries! Just form the flour on a clean work surface in a circular shape in order to have an empty well in the middle. Add sugar and baking powder along the circle of flour. Crack the eggs into the middle of the well. Add the shortening to the eggs in small spoonfuls. Pour the vanilla into the eggs. With your hands, slowly mix the ingredients together until a smooth dough forms.
Wrap the dough in a kitchen towel to prevent drying while you work.
Cut the dough into one portion at a time.
On a floured work surface, roll each portion into long strips the size of an index finger.
Cut the strips into marble-sized pieces.
Flour lightly along the way! This will keep the struffoli from sticking together.
Fill a large pot with canola oil three quarters of the way. Heat the oil to 375 degrees or test it by lightly tossing in one struffola. If it sizzles then your oil is ready for frying! Handling the struffoli gently, fry them in batches to a golden brown.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer each batch to a tray covered with paper towels.
In a pot, warm honey to bubbling and add the fried struffoli in batches. Coat the struffoli well in the honey. Keep adding and warming honey with every new batch.
Arrange the struffoli attractively on a tray in any way that meets your mood! You can shape them in a wreath, or a pile them pretty in a mound. And be sure to use your favorite Christmas dish!