Christmas season means something different to everyone. One of the traditions I loved most when I was a kid was ‘struffoli making day.’ Although, I always pronounced it ‘struffola’ so I could use an expert opinion on that!
More of us than were necessary gathered in the kitchen and we began the day long process of mixing, rolling and frying. On that day, my great grandma GiGi was the boss in the kitchen. She had a gigantic wooden cutting board used only for struffoli day. That came out, the oil went on, and the flour went everywhere. The flour was probably everywhere because they let me help and I was just a little kid. But I was a kid who loved being in the kitchen with her great grandma, grandma, aunt and mom and whoever else was around that day. I never liked to miss anything so it was probably easier to let me help than listen to me whine! (Which I’ll admit, is still true to this day!) In the end the reward was simple- mounds of miniature, honey covered fritters. And with each bite that everyone took, my pride grew because ‘I helped!’ I remember that feeling like it was yesterday.
After many years of buying struffoli from the bakery, and tasting other people’s when offered, and being constantly disappointed because none of them ever tasted anything like I remember them tasting from GiGi’s kitchen, it was time to take matters into my own hands. I was starting to think that it was just a memory and that they actually aren’t any good at all! I decided to take on a struffoli challenge to find out if I had a bad memory, or everyone else in the world just had a bad recipe.
I researched recipes online and I decided to compare four recipes that got positive reviews only to discover how different they all were. I was frustrated. I called my aunt and she said she could tell me over the phone how GiGi made them. Ok…well that was a start. I called my mom and she said she thought she had GiGi’s recipe somewhere and that night, as a surprise, she handed over the recipe preserved in a ziplock bag, along with many others. After reviewing it, I became more skeptical then ever about the struffoli of my past. The recipe wasn’t anything like the ones I found online! For starters, it had a lot less ingredients.
There was only one thing to do…A Struffoli throw down. Giada DeLaurentiis VS my great grandma, Virginia Sabitini.The challenge would require that both recipes be made on the same day to ensure quality control. The flour brand was the same, the oil was the same temperature, the same brand of butter. In the end, after a very, very long night, I had a clear winner and I’m proud to say it was GiGi’s recipe.
GiGi’s recipe produced struffoli that was light, airy and crisp and tasted just how I remembered them. Giada’s were too dense and I didn’t care for the overall flavoring.
Now that I am armed with a piece of my childhood and a recipe that has survived the times, I can continue this tradition with my nieces and friends…and with you.
7 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tsp. vanilla
1/2 lb. butter (about 4 tbs) melted
5 cups flour- sifted
4 tbs baking powder
1.5-2 pounds honey
- Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl or in a food processor, Beat eggs & sugar together and slowly add melted butter.
- With the mixer on low, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the flour. mix slowly until mixture starts to form a ball of dough, It will be soft but not sticky. Add flour as needed.
- On a floured board, form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 20 – 30 minutes. Heat your oil. (You know when it is the correct temperature when you start to see it moving slightly and Giada DeLaurentiis offers a great tip: A 1″ piece of bread will fry in 3 minutes.
- Slice off dough as needed and keep the rest in the fridge as you work. On a floured board make 1/2 inch ‘snakes.’ (This was always my job as a kid! I was always told I was ‘the best snake maker!’)
- Cut your ‘snakes’ into 1/2 pieces.
- Fry for about 2-3 minutes per batch, being careful to not over crowd the pot. Monitor your oil temp and adjust as needed.
- Drain on paper towel.
- Ok, so here is where it get s a little tricky because you need to use your judgement. GiGi’s recipe doesn’t say HOW much honey to use! I would guess that for the entire recipe you would need approximately 1.5 – 2 pounds of honey. Heat the honey in a pot and let it boil for about a minute. Place the fried balls into a large bowl and pour in enough honey to lightly coat the fritters.After it all settles, a surprising amount of honey will pool at the bottom of the serving dish so you need to decide how much you want to use. My mom said that Gigi wouldn’t coat them too liberally so you could dip the ones without much honey into the pool of the honey if you wanted to. Which leads to me to GiGi’s greatest advise ever given: You can always put the salt in but you can’t take the salt out! So be mindful of your honey amounts- you can always drizzle on more.
- Moving quickly, plate your struffuli as desired. Lightly sprinkle on rainbow nonpareils while honey is still sticky as it cools quickly.