For as long as I can remember, every Christmas my mom gathers a group of folks to make a traditional Italian dessert called Strufoli. I believe this is a southern Italian treat which my mom learned to make from various members of her family. Strufoli is essentially a dough ball, fried and coated in honey. Each ball is cut by hand and the end product is sprinkled with candies and served on a plate for people to congregate around and snack on while enjoying each other’s company on the holidays. The beauty of these kinds of recipes is that each family has their own twist on it, developed over generations and handed down, along with tips for making the dough balls tasty, light and airy despite being deep fried. It is a truly monumental effort to cut all the dough by hand and sadly I have been absent the last few years but my sister and cousin have been faithful helpers to my parents. The Strufoli process provides not only an opportunity to take part in our heritage but it is also a time for family bonding as the process takes hours, leaving plenty of time to catch up on all the gossip. Also (most importantly) this process gives you lots of time to drink wine on the job. Here is the recipe we use:
4.5 cups of all purpose flour
2 Teaspoons double acting powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup of white wine
1 quart salad oil
¼ cup salad oil
1.5 lb jar of honey
Colored sprinkles candy
6 large or extra large eggs, beaten
Do Half of Recipe at a time, be generous with wine and salt
Put 4 cups of flour in a sifter on a pastry board, add baking powder and salt, sift onto board. Make a well in the center and add the wine. ¼ cup oil, and beaten eggs. Gradually blend wet ingredients into dry with a fork. Knead dough on board until blended, smooth and soft. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in refrigerator for 30 mins to an hour.
One rested, divide dough in half, keeping other half under a damp cloth to prevent drying.
On a well floured board, roll unwrapped dough to ¼” thickness, then cut into strips ½” wide. Pinch each strip and cut into ¼” pieces.
In deep saucepan, heat rest of salad oil, test, when hot, add pieces and fry in small batches until brown.
Simmer honey until ball forms when dropped in water. Remove heat, add strufoli, and coat well. Pile on plates and coat with desired topping.
The recipe will yield you about 6 or 7 nicely piled plates of strufoli, which we usually enjoy at breakfast, or with an afternoon coffee, or with a glass of wine…Unfortunately this recipe is one that has been handed down, generation after generation, and requires a certain amount of trial and error to get right. It leaves out many “on the job” tips which you can only experience by watching an old pro or importing your own Italian grandmother. With any luck, I’ll be able to make it to Philly next year to join my family for the Strufoli-making event.