Struffoli, Italian honey balls

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Grandma’s struffoli. She started making them on Christmas Eve, frying the little balls of dough and coating them with warm honey. She piled them into gigantic mounds and topped them with sprinkles and shaved chocolate. From Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve, she had huge trays of them all around her apartment, even one on her cedar chest!

After Grandma was gone, Mom used to make them, and I sometimes would help her. Although I don’t have the precise measurements that they used, I have had success with this recipe that I got on the internet. You can find a wide selection of struffoli recipes on the web (some more complicated than this one).

First, the ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Crisco (melted and cooled)
  • 2/3 cup honey for coating

Here are the basic instructions:

  1. Mix together the dry ingredients. Separately, combine the wet ingredients.
  2. Make a well on a table or pasta board with the well-combined dry ingredients. Then add all of the wet ingredients (except for the honey) into the “hole” of the well. Carefully combine the wet and dry ingredients with your hands working from the inside out to form a ball of dough.
  3. Cut the dough into smaller pieces and then roll each of these into snakes. Cut these into small pieces about the size of the tip of your thumb and roll them into little balls.
  4. Deep fry the balls. When they are golden, remove them to drain.
  5. Meanwhile, warm up the honey. Pour it on the slightly cooled and drained struffoli, then combine with a large spoon.
  6. Top with chocolate chips and sprinkles (and maybe some candied orange peel) and that’s it!

I marvel at the fact that Grandma always had ingredients like flour and sugar on hand and could make a variety of foods like pasta, cakes, and breads. Although she only made elaborate treats like this once a year, I’ll always remember Grandma’s struffoli!

Happy holidays!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.