This is a traditional Neapolitan Christmas dessert and my favorite. Citrus and sweet balls covered with honey. They are great to eat and for decorating your table. My most vivid memory of this dessert as a child was going to my Aunt Gen’s house where she would always have a big dish on a pedestal with the struffoli shaped like a tree. As a kid it seemed enormous. We would scoop out some struffoli, as many guests would with their holiday visits to my aunt. I only recently learned how to make them but my Mom’s hand in creating them showed how experience makes these seemingly simple balls something special and different.
- 4 cups of sifted flour
- 3 tablespoons of shortening or butter (mom and I differed on this)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 6 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- grated rind of one lemon and one orange
- milk – just enough to hold the dough together
- About 14 oz. of acacia or wildflower honey
- Colored sprinkles for decoration
- Candied cherries for decoration (optional)
Work shortening or butter into flour into a coarse meal. Add vanilla, sugar, baking powder, eggs, salt and milk. Knead together well. You want a soft dough that is not too dry. Let it stand 1/2 to 1 hour.
Roll out the dough into cylinders about the size of a large bread stick, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into small 1/2 inch pieces. Place them on a lightly floured surface.
Fry at about 350 degrees in about an inch of frying oil (that I like to flavor with some olive oil). Keep turning so they brown evenly on all sides. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place in a deep bowl. You need to work fast so the olive oil doesn’t burn and can replenish the oil occasionally and keep frying once it’s up to temperature. After they cool, place the struffoli in a large mixing bowl.
Heat the honey just until it foams. While it is still hot, pour the honey over the cooled struffoli and mix gently. They are traditionally served on platters shaped into balls, Christmas trees, or wreaths. Decorate them with sprinkles and cherries.
To keep them, just cover them gently with plastic wrap at room temperature. They last for days.