Struffoli are a traditional Neapolitan Christmas dessert, consisting of fried balls of dough, covered with honey and adorned with candied fruit and colored sprinkles.
The struffoli recipe is relatively simple, but requires a certain amount of patience, as you need to prepare the basic dough and then form many small round balls of similar size.
Any effort will be amply rewarded by the taste and satisfaction of presenting this indulgent dessert, which is also a feast for the eyes.
The original struffoli recipe, with its ancient roots, has graced Neapolitan tables for countless years. Some believe this dessert dates back to the ancient Greeks who, according to legend, introduced it to the Gulf of Naples at the time of Parthenope.
Why are they called Struffoli? What does it mean?
The name “struffolo” comes from the word “strofinare,” which is Italian for “to rub,” and refers to the typical action performed during their preparation. When the dough is cut into strips, these are rubbed on a work surface to form long, thin cylinders, which are then cut into small pieces and rolled between the palms of the hands to form balls.
There is, however, another school of thought that links the name to the Neapolitan verb “struffolare,” which means “to entangle” or “entwine.” Thus, the term “struffolo” could also be used to describe something that has been tangled or assembled.
Our struffoli recipe tips
Making struffoli requires time and patience; the balls need to be small in order to fry quickly and cook evenly. Also, small struffoli absorb the melted honey better, creating a perfect contrast between the relatively neutral fried dough and the sweetness of the honey.
During the preparation of struffoli, it’s important to use as little flour as possible and to shake off any excess before frying. Excess flour can cause foam to form during cooking, which is quite bothersome and makes frying more cumbersome.
Struffoli can be decorated with candied fruits and sprinkles of your choice, arranged in a dome or ring shape, or even served in individual portion cups. To shape the struffoli, place them on a plate and to give them an orderly shape, you can use the inside of a halved lemon, which doesn’t stick to the honey and aids in this process.
Struffoli keep well for a couple of days; they can be prepared and arranged on the serving dish even the day before serving.
- 3 cups of all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of butter
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1.4 tbsp of rum or anise liqueur
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- salt to taste
- oil for frying, as needed
- colored sprinkles, as needed
- candied fruit to taste (orange and cherries)
For the syrup:
- 4/5 cup of honey (wildflower is good)
- 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix everything together.
Add the eggs (at room temperature) and mix.
Add the melted butter and stir with a spoon.
Add the grated orange and lemon zest, then add the rum and then mix well with a spoon.
When the ingredients are well mixed, knead with your hands until you have a smooth, homogeneous dough.
Wrap the dough ball with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for one hour.
Place the loaf on a floured pastry board and cut it into strips with a spatula, or knife.
To make rolls of similar size, you can cut the loaf into slices about an inch thick and then divide it into two parts.
Roll each strip to form a strand.
Then cut it into squares and then roll them between your hands to form balls.
Proceed in this way throughout the dough and as you go place them on the baking paper. If needed you can dust the pastry board with flour but it is not necessary.
Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a high-sided saucepan and bring it up to frying temperature.
You can check the temperature with a kitchen thermometer (in this case it should be about 350 F), or by dipping an ostffolo, if it stays still it is not yet hot enough, if it starts sizzling it is ready for frying.
Place a handful of struffoli in the hot oil and fry them for about 60 seconds, the balls should be golden brown but not dark.
To move the struffoli into the oil, you can put them on the perforated ladle, dip it into the oil and drop the balls, this way you avoid splattering the oil.
Scoop out the struffoli with a slotted spoon and then drain them on a plate covered with paper towels. Proceed like this and bake all the struffoli.
In the meantime prepare the syrup, put the honey and powdered sugar in a large pot.
Melt it all over a low flame and then remove from the heat.
Pour the struffoli inside the pot as well and stir so that they are sprinkled with honey.
Mix them very well, all the balls should soak well with the honey bath. You can also help yourself with a spoon.
Transfer the struffoli to a plate and form a dome. Then add the candied cherries and orange peels and top with the colored sprinkles.
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