This traditional Italian Christmas dessert, commonly called honey balls in the US, are best described as small balls of sweet dough, fried and then dipped in honey and decorated with chopped nuts, colored sprinkles, cinnamon, and grated citrus peel. Makes one dinner-plate sized mound or wreath. Recipe can be doubled, or tripled.
For the dough
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- 1 medium egg yolk
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter melted or well softened
- 1/2 tbsp anise liquor (optional; may use brandy, limoncello or other)
- 1 medium orange grated (zest only)
- 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the honey topping
- 1 cup honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 medium orange grated (zest only)
For frying and decorating
- canola oil enough to fill a frying pan with 1/2 to 1 inch of oil
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 2 tbsp colored sprinkles plus more for topping
To make the dough and shape the dough balls
To the bowl of a standing mixer, add eggs, egg yolk, and sugar and beat with wire whisk attachment until frothy (about 1 minute)
Add softened/melted butter and beat until it is incorporated
Add orange zest, and alcohol (if using) and mix until combined
Add flour and salt and knead dough until a soft and uniform dough is produced (this took less than 1 minute for me using a mixer)
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest on counter for 30 minutes or so
When ready to begin rolling and cutting the dough, unwrap dough and form into a square; then cut the square into 4 or 5 strips.
Roll each strip into a long and thin snake shape that is about 1/4 inch in diameter (length will vary depending on size of your cuts but will be about 1.5 to 2 feet in length)
After all dough has been rolled out, begin to cut the rolls into small nuggets about 1/4 inch in size. Some people go on to roll each of these little pieces, but it is not necessary.
To fry the dough balls
Set a large pan with enough canola oil to fry (about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil) over medium high heat and heat for a few minutes (you'll know it's ready by dropping one piece of struffoli in it and seeing it bubble).
Fry the dough balls in batches; don't crowd the pan. The dough balls should be ready in less than 1 minute as soon as they begin turning golden I start to take mine out after 30 to 40 seconds. This will vary depending on the power of your stove/heat.
Remove dough balls from oil with slotted spoon and place on dish lined with paper towels.
If you are not making the honey syrup right away, store the dough balls in a covered container overnight or you may also freeze for up to one month.
To make the honey syrup
Using a medium to large frying pan, add honey, cinnamon, and orange zest to the pan and then cook gently over medium heat until the mixture bubble gently.
Remove pan from heat
To coat the struffoli and shape the wreath
As soon as honey is removed from heat, add the fried dough balls to coat them and stir until honey begins to thicken/cool down. At this stage, add sprinkles and sliced almonds
To shape the wreath, place a small glass in the center of a dinner plate and arrange struffoli all around. Top with additional sprinkles if desired while the honey balls are still warm (otherwise they won't stick).
- There is no need to roll each dough ball individually. They puff up and appear roundish.
- The longer the dough balls are fried, the harder they get. Fry until slightly golden and then remove from oil with slotted spoon. This is a personal preference; these can be thought of as dough "nuts" when fried longer.
- Use a dish lined with a paper towel to drain the dough balls after frying
- Feel free to substitute other sliced nuts for sliced almonds
- May also decorate with candied/maraschino cherries
- To add additional sprinkles or nuts, do so while honey is still warmish or they will not stick.
Calories: 458kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 105mg | Potassium: 179mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 3mg