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Christmas Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls) with Christina of Take Back Your Table

Struffoli RecipesI’ve got a gift for you! Her name is Christina. She is one of the most kind-hearted women I’ve ever met, and the killer cook and recipe developer behind the fabulous family food blog Take Back Your Table. (She is also, among other things, one of Babble’s Top 50 Mom Food Bloggers, voted #2 in the “Most Popular” category!) And she comes bearing Struffoli, a classic Italian Christmas dessert.

Christina’s on a mission dear to my heart: to bring families closer together, one meal at a time. Her recipes are practical, healthy, full of soul and big flavor. Most importantly, Christina’s food is deeply connected to old family traditions and new ones that she’s forging with her young family. Christina’s post and recipe about Christmas Struffoli are a perfect example of how her passion for bringing families together through food pulls through from her initial decision to develop a recipe, through her writing, to the food itself.

Struffoli aka Honey Balls, are an Italian dessert consisting of little bits of dough deep fried in oil, coated in honey and decorated with colorful sprinkles. Gorgeous, glistening, pyramid shaped mounds of Struffoli fill the windows of Italian bakeries, found only around Christmas time. There are many versions of this Italian treat and all of them ridiculously delicious. I mean, what’s not to love about fried dough coated in honey, right?

I created this recipe a few years ago in honor of my Great-Grandmother, Isabella. Many of her recipes never made it to paper, but they live on in spirit through the stories shared with me by my mother. My hope in creating this recipe was to start a new family tradition, something that my kids could look forward to every year and pass down through the generations. I think we can all agree that the site and smell of a dish only made once a year has a special way of bringing back moments in time and evoking an excitement for the season. These are more than just recipes, they are links to our past and they have a way of connecting us to special people and places.

What recipes do you look forward to every year?

Here’s to all of your family traditions new and old, may they live on forever. Happy Holidays!

Struffoli

3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
¾ cup milk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
5 large eggs
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
5-6 cups of canola oil
1-½ cups honey
Zest of 1 orange
¼ cup candied cherries
1/3-cup nonpareils or multi colored sprinkles/jimmies

1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix for a few seconds on low speed, just to combine. Add in sugar, milk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix until dough just comes together. Allow dough to rest for 1 hour, covered with a damp cloth.

2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven). Place a thermometer into the oil. Sprinkle a little flour onto a baking sheet and set aside.

3. While oil is heating, remove dough from mixer and place on a floured surface. Knead the dough slightly until it is smooth. Roll small pieces of dough into long ropes, about 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut rope into ¼-inch pieces and place on prepared baking sheet. At this point, you can leave them the shape that they are or roll each one into a rounder ball (extra work and not necessary). When the oil reaches 350 degrees, you are ready to fry. Fry Strufolli in batches until golden brown, making sure not to over-crowd the pot. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat the process until all of your dough is fried. Once Strufolli are drained, place them in a large mixing bowl and prepare your honey.

4. Place honey and orange zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Switch heat to medium and simmer until foam disappears and mixture is slightly lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Pour honey over Strufolli and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Lift balls out of the honey using a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter piling them into a pyramid shape (be careful as Strufolli might still be hot). Decorate with candied cherries and sprinkles. Once Strufolli is cooled and honey hardens slightly, cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

TIPS:
* Shape the Strufolli into a wreath instead of a cone shape for an extra-festive holiday touch.
* The Struffoli can be fried up to 3 days in advance and kept at room temperature in a Ziploc bag or any other airtight container. Coat Struffoli with honey a couple of hours before serving to allow the balls to “marinate” and soak up all of that goodness.

Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, Every Day with Rachael Ray staffer, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger at TakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she truly believes it is the glue that keeps the family together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.

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