Join resident chef Mario Matassa as he shows us how to make perfect struffoli with step by step instructions!
These little balls of sweet dough, golden fried and coated in honey, are one of the most characteristic and anticipated of the Neapolitan desserts. During the festive season, no table would seem complete without a centrepiece dish of struffoli. In case you have never tried them, they are small balls of dough, cut and rolled by hand, fried, then coated in honey and decorated with candied peel, cherries and whatever else takes your fancy – little silver balls, mimicking the Christmas tree, are a common favourite.
Some argue that the recipe and tradition dates back to Ancient Greece, making struffoli one of the oldest of the Neapolitan recipes. Different versions have emerged over the years. And, as with so many dishes in Italy, they come under different names depending where you happen to be. In Calabria they are called cicirata and in Umbria they call them cicerchiata. The basic recipe, wherever you happen to be, however, remains the same. And once coated, they are plated, the honey acting like mortar. Most often, a pyramid shape is formed, but you can also use a rounded object in the centre of the plate to form a ciambella.
PREPARATION: 30 minutes plus resting time
COOKING: 15 minutes
For the dough:
- 40g sugar
- 400g plain flour
- 60g butter
- zest of one unwaxed orange
- 3 medium free-range eggs plus 1 yolk
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp white wine
For the topping:
- 180g honey
- 30g candied orange peel
- 30g candied lemon peel
- candied cherries to taste
- silver balls or coloured sprinkles to taste
1 Melt the butter, allow it to cool a little and then place in a bowl with the other dough ingredients. Add the grated orange zest.
2 Now begin to gently knead the dough in the bowl, bringing all the ingredients together by hand.
3 Once the dough starts to come together, transfer it onto a work surface and continue kneading until smooth. Cover and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
4 Roll the dough out evenly into a baguette shape and, using a sharp knife, slice it into even pieces, about 6 or 7.
5 Roll each piece of dough individually into a long stick, as you would with gnocchi. The sticks should be about 1cm thick and should resemble a bread stick.
6 Roll each piece of dough individually into a long stick, as you would with gnocchi. The sticks should be about 1cm thick and should resemble a bread stick.
7 Deep fry in groundnut or rapeseed oil at 180ºC. Cook in small batches for approximately 2-3 minutes, until golden. Drain and place on absorbent paper.
8 Pour the honey into a large bowl and add the struffoli once they have cooled down. Turn gently to coat evenly.
9 Arrange the balls on a serving dish as you like. Decorate as you would a Christmas tree with the candied peel, cherries, silver balls and sprinkles.
There are plenty more delicious Italian-inspired recipes here.