By Maria Chiara Mastrogiacomo
Struffoli, tiny deep fried dough balls bathed in a syrup of honey and citrus rinds and decorated with colored Jordan almonds and sprinkles and candied fruit. Struffoli are to the Neapolitan Christmas what pumpkin pie is to the American Thanksgiving. It’s just not Christmas in Naples without it.
Struffoli is said to date back to the Greeks in the time of Partenope, but when it became a Christmas tradition is not as clear. Regardless, struffoli adorn every Neapolitan’s Christmas table and are still by and large made by hand at home. Big batches piled high on disposable plastic pie plates, always making enough to give to friends and family.
Joining the Napoli Unplugged pages with her family’s recipe is Maria Chiara Mastrogiacomo who along with her sister runs one of the best little hotels in Naples, Hotel il Convento.
Looking on the web for a struffoli recipe I found several, all with an elaborate mixture. The following recipe on the contrary, has a simple mixture and guaranteed success!
500 grams of flour
300 grams honey (about)
100 grams sugar
Peels of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, tangerines), cut into tiny pieces (see note below)
Colored Jordan almonds
Candied Citrus Peels
Prepare the Dough
Put the flour into a bowl and make a mound. Add the eggs and mix until you have a soft dough. Wrap it in a cloth (cutting struffoli takes time and the mixture tends to dry out when it is exposed to air for too long)
Prepare the Struffoli
Cut a piece of dough (be careful to leave the rest wrapped in the cloth) and roll it with your hands into a thin round strip. Cut the strip into small pieces (when frying struffoli they will double in volume). Put the struffoli on a plate dusted with flour (do not worry if some stick together, they will break apart when you fry them)
Fry the Struffoli
If you have a fryer you can use that, otherwise use a large saucepan.
Heat the oil and fry the struffoli a little at a time until they are golden brown. During the frying some foam may begin to appear and you will want to remove it when it becomes excessive.
Remove the cooked struffoli with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray covered with paper towels.
Prepare the Sauce
In a large saucepan heat the sugar and half of the honey (use a low heat to prevent the honey from burning). When the honey is melted add all of the struffoli in stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. While continuing to stir add the remaining honey and the citrus peels. When the struffoli and honey are blended, turn off the heat and put them onto a serving plate. Decorate with the colored Jordan almonds, sprinkles and candied citrus peels.
In this recipe, the flavor comes from the citrus peels, so make sure to have enough peels (for this I would say that the ideal amount would be at least 2 oranges, 1 lemon and 7 or 8 mandarins) cut very small. It’s better to do it the day before preparing the struffoli (you’ll find that it takes a long time and a lot of patience!). It’s useless to attempt to speed up the process using machines or graters as the result will be a sauce that does not produce the right effect. These peels joining with the honey and sugar become almost like candied fruit, only much more tasty and fragrant!
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Maria Chiara was born in Naples in 1980. She manages a charming hotel, Hotel Il Convento in the historical centre of the city. Her passion for cooking and hospitality lead her to suggest typical Neapolitan recipes. Though she doesn’t consider herself the best cook, the recipes (all of family tradition) give very tasty results!