It’s Christmas week and my recipe for you is a traditional and delicious Neapolitan Christmas sweet. Struffoli or Honeyballs as I grew up calling them were served at every Christmas gathering when I was a child. As a child they weren’t my favorite things on the dessert table but as an adult I now absolutely love them! I’ve been lucky to find a bakery by me who makes them really well. They can be done wrong in my opinion coming out either too heavy or too light or not sweet enough. They can be found in most specialty supermarkets or bakeries around Christmas time. I’ve always, however, wanted to try to make them myself. I was told that they weren’t easy but nothing really good ever comes easy so yesterday I decided to give it a go. They weren’t easy but they were well worth it! So, I hope if you have time this Christmas you will give making them yourself a try. One of the best things about these is that they get better over the days after you make them, soaking up all that yummy honey and they can last up to a week or more!
A lot of recipes call for orange zest or lemon zest but I prefer not to add that. Feel free to add that if you like them that way.
- 3 3/4 cups of flour
- 6 Tablespoons of butter softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 2-3 cups of honey
- pinch of salt
- multi-colored non pareils
Place the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together between your fingers until butter in little bits. Then empty into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk together. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until dough forms. This will be easier to do with your hands. It will get easier to work with the longer you knead it. Leave in bowl at room temp for 45 minutes.
Fill a large, deep bowl with vegetable oil and heat. Take your dough and quarter it. Roll each quarter out with your hands and add flour if needed to better work it. Make long rope-like pieces and break off pieces about 1/2 inch thick by 1/4 inch long – think about the size of a marble.
When the oil is very hot, add the pieces of dough using a slotted spoon a few at a time and fry them until golden. Do not overcrowd the pot. Stir them gently so that all sides get cooked evenly. The dough will sink and as it cooks they will float to the top. When they look tan and golden remove from pot and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat this process until you have cooked all the dough.
Once you’ve cooked all your dough, heat another large pot with the honey and 4 tablespoons of sugar. also add a few tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until foam disappear and the mixture is yellow and clear. Lower the heat and immerse the cooked dough into the honey mixture. Stir to coat completely. Empty onto a plate. Wet your hands with cold water to shape your struffoli into a layered dome or mound or a ring. I prefer to mound them. Sprinkle evenly with the non pareils. Serve after several hours or, even better the next day! I found that they were significantly better the next day.
Honeyballs will keep for a week or more if carefully wrapped in wax paper or foil.
Enjoy and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!