Struffoli is a traditional Neapolitan Christmas dessert made from small puffs of citrus-flavored dough that are crunchy on the outside and soft inside. The fried balls are dipped in honey, dusted with multi-colored candy sprinkles, and usually served piled high in a tree-shaped mound or shaped into a wreath.
2 cups flour plus additional for rolling
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice
Sugar sprinkles for decoration
To make the dough:
Combine the flour, lemon and orange zest, sugar, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the eggs, orange juice, vanilla and optional Fiori di Sicilia. Blend until the mixture forms a ball. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Shape the dough into a small rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 8-9 equal-size pieces. On a lightly floured surface, use the palms of your hands to roll each piece into a 1/2-inch thick log. Then cut each log into 1/2-inch pieces. ( An easy technique is to place all of the logs side-by-side and then use a knife or a dough cutter to cut through all of the pieces at once to form the 1/2-pieces.) You can leave the shape of the pieces as is or use the palms of your hands to roll each piece into a small ball.
To fry the dough:
In a large shallow saucepan, pour in about 2-inchs of oil. Use a deep-frying thermometer to heat the oil to 370 degrees F. In batches, fry the dough balls until lightly golden brown, just 1-2 minutes. Transfer the fried dough balls to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
To add the honey glaze:
In a saucepan, combine the honey, sugar and lemon or orange juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the fried dough balls and stir until coated in the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the saucepan for 2 minutes.
Spray the outside of a glass or small bowl with cooking spray and place in the center of a round platter. Use a large spoon to arrange the struffoli around the glass to form a wreath. Wet your hands with a little water if you need to help shape the struffoli into shape. Alternately, you can mound the struffoli into a tree shape or simply mound them on a serving dish. Add the sugar sprinkles while the honey is still wet. Allow the mixture to set for 2 hours before serving. You can also make this one day in advance. Remove the glass or bowl from the center of the platter and serve.
FIORI DI SICILIA
If you ever notice a distinct flavor in some Italian desserts that makes them extra-special, it's a good chance that they contain Fiori di Sicilia. It has a unique taste that elevates the flavor of baked goods and desserts.
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