Going back as far as I can remember my grandma Tillie would make the most amazing dessert around Christmas called Struffoli. Struffoli is an Italian Neapolitan dish made of deep fried dough balls soaked in honey. My grandma passed away when I was in college, so to honor her memory I decided to pick up the torch and continue making them every Christmas since then. The only problem was the recipe she had written up didn’t have the most….descriptive instructions. After many years of many trials I think I finally have a complete recipe that would make Grandma proud.
Making the Dough
To make the dough I like to use my food processor. I put all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) in first and pulse a few times until well combined. Next, I cut the butter into small chunks and add it in.
I scatter the butter evenly across the entire bowl, then pulse until the mixture looks like fine cornmeal. If you do not have a food processor you can make the dough by mixing the dry ingredients in a bowl, then use a pastry blender to cut in the butter.
Lastly, I add in the eggs and vanilla and process until a dough forms. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and kneed for about 5-10 minutes. Add more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
Once the dough is smooth I divide it into quarters, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night. If you are in a rush you can refrigerate for an hour, but the colder the dough the easier it is to form.
Shaping and Frying the Struffoli Dough
To fry the dough I usually enlist the help of my husband to act as fry cook, but you can easily do this job solo. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches about 350°F. You can also use a fryer if you have one. Remove one quarter of the dough from the fridge and roll into a thick log on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into about three segments, then roll one of the segments into a thin rope about the thickness of your pinky. Cut 1/4 inch pieces off the rope to make the individual dough balls. No need to roll them into balls though, they will become rounded once they are dropped in the oil.
To transfer the struffoli to the oil I like to put them into a mesh strainer to shake off excess flour, then lower them into the oil.
Fry for 2-4 minutes or until the struffoli are golden brown. Remove from the oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Once they have cooled soak them warm honey for a minute of two before placing onto a plate or container.
- 3 cups (12.8 oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 teas salt
- 3/4 cup (5.3 oz) granulated sugar
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 large (7 oz) eggs
- 1/2 teas pure vanilla extract
- 2-3 cups oil (for frying)
- 2-3 cups honey
- sprinkles (optional)
In the bowl of a food processor combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Pulse a few times to combine. (See note if you do not have a food processor)
Cut up the butter into cubes and add at to food processor. Pulse until the butter is well broken up and the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
Beat the eggs with the vanilla and add to the food processor while running. As soon as the dough comes together stop the food processor and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Kneed by hand for about 5-10 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
Divide the dough into quarters, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
Once you are ready to fry the struffoli heat oil of your choice (canola, vegetable, etc) in a medium saucepan (or you can use a fryer if you have one). Use enough oil to get a 1 inch depth. Once the oil has reached about 350°F you are ready to start frying the dough.
Take a dough quarter from the refrigerator and roll into a thick log, then divide into 4 portions.
Roll one of the logs into a smaller rope, about the thickness of your pinky. Cut into 1/4 inch segments. Fry in batches of about 20-40 (depending on how large your pot is).
Fry the struffoli until golden brown, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Once all the struffoli has been fried they are ready to soak in honey. Heat 1-2 cups of honey in a small saucepan until thin. Drop the struffoli into the honey in batches of about 10-20. Stir to coat them and let them sit for a minute or two before removing and placing onto a dish or container. Top with optional sprinkles.
If you don't have a food processor you can mix the dry ingredients in a bowl then cut in the butter using a pastry blender or fork.