It’s Struffoli time! These Italian honey balls are nothing more than small fried balls of dough, caramelized in honey and decorated with rainbow sprinkles and candied fruit.
Struffoli is a typical Italian dessert for Christmas that in December you can find in every home and Italian pastry shop.
Struffoli: Same Recipe, Different Names
You can find Struffoli recipe above all in southern Italy, where there are different versions. They are all very similar but with different names, depending on the region.
For example, in Calabria they are called “Turdiddi”; in Umbria and in Marche “Cicerchiata”, where they make them also for Carnival.
But the Neapolitan recipe of these little delicious Italian honey balls certainly is the most rooted and ancient.
Struffoli Symbol of Wealth, a Wish for the New Year
Struffoli Napoletani are colorful and delicious! A symbol of wealth and therefore good wishes for the new year.
In Italy, they are a must at Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas lunch and New Year’s Eve dinner. They can be made ahead of time because they keep fresh for a long time!
Struffoli recipe is easy to make, you need only a little patience to make the balls of dough. You’ll see, the result will be for sure a great success!
How to Make Authentic Italian Struffoli
- Prep Time: 45 Min
- Cook Time: 15 Min
- Cooling Time: 1 Hour
- Servings: 8
For Struffoli Honey Balls
- 400 g (3 cups) of “00” flour
- 3 medium eggs
- 80 g (1/3 cup) of unsalted butter
- 40 g (2 3/4 tablespoons) of granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of aniseed liquor (the authentic Italian recipe wants aniseed but you can substitute it with orange liquor, Rum or Limoncello)
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder or baking soda (optional). See the paragraph below “The Addition of Yeast: Yes or No?”
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 600 ml (2 1/2 cups) of seed oil for frying
- 250 g (3/4 cup) of Wildflower or Acacia honey
How to Make Struffoli Dough
Step 1) – First, melt the butter in a double boiler and let it cool. In a large bowl, mix together the flour with the baking powder and a pinch of salt.
Step 2) – Then add the sugar, melted butter and the liquor.
Step 3) – Make a hole in the center and add the eggs. Mix the ingredients with the help of a wooden spoon. Finally add the grated orange zest.
Step 4) – Mix the ingredien with the spoon. Continue to knead with your hands, until you get a homogeneous dough, free of lumps.
Step 5) – Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Step 6) – After the resting time, cut the dough into equal parts. With your flat hands, roll each piece on the work surface as if to make a cylinder about 1 cm (about 1/2 inch) thick.
Step 7) – Slice the roll of dough with the help of a small knife into many pieces of 1 cm (1/2 inch) in size.
Step 8) – At this step you can leave your Sruffoli in small pieces or give them the shape of balls by rolling them between the palms of your hands.
If you want to get the little balls, the preparation times are slightly longer, because each square must be shaped between the palms of your hands until you get well-closed balls, but the final result is more beautiful.
So keep making all the struffoli balls in this way, until the dough is finished.
How to Fry Struffoli
Step 9) – Now we are going to fry struffoli. Use a high-sided saucepan, Place it on the heat with the seed oil for frying. Bring the oil to 180°C (356 F).
You can check it with a thermometer or test it with a small piece of dough. If, as soon as you throw it into the oil, it start to fry forming some bubbles, the oil is ready.
Fry Struffoli few at a time, so that you can better control the cooking, turning them a couple of times. In 30-40 seconds they will be ready. Struffoli are ready to perfection when they are a golden color.
Step 10) – Drain them with a skimmer and place on a serving dish, covered with absorbent kitchen paper.
How to Decorate Struffoli
Step 11) – In a saucepan that can contain all the struffoli, pour almost all the honey and some rainbow sprinkles. Heat over very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. This step is to make the honey more liquid and more malleable.
Step 12) – Turn off the heat and add the struffoli. Add one more tablespoon of sprinkles and mix all together.
When all the Struffoli are wrapped in honey and sprinkles, immediately transfer them, still hot, to a serving dish. Now we can decorate and give them the final touch that will amaze your guests!
So, transfer them, still hot, to a serving dish. Don’t wait too long for this. When the honey cools it begins to harden and it becomes difficult to shape it. In fact, now you can give them the shape you prefer, for example the classic pyramid.
If you want to make the classic donut shape that resembles a Christmas wreath, here how to do it!
Step 13) – Place a glass in the center of the plate. With a spoon, arrange the hot struffoli all around the glass and let them cool.
Step 14) – Decorate with more sprinkles and some candid fruit. When they are cold, you can remove the glass.
Struffoli Napoletani are ready to be served or wrapped to make a delicious and original Christmas gift to your friends or relatives.
You can keep these Italian honey balls in a airtight containers for about a week. but just BEFORE the honey and the decorations! So, you fry struffoli, let them cool, then keep them fresh in a container till you want to use them.
They can even be frozen in food bags, so you can defrost and dip them in honey when you’re ready to serve.
Struffoli already decorated with honey and sprinkles can be kept for about 4 days in an airtight container or under a glass dome. Have a look to this beautiful Glass Cake Stand with Dome by Libbey.
Struffoli Decoration: Some Variants
You can decorate Struffoli even with dried fruit such as walnuts or almonds, or with small pieces of dark chocolate or nougat.
Often Struffoli Pyramid is decorated with red and green candied cherries that remember Christmas tree balls.
Aniseed Liqueur Substitute
According to the authentic Italian recipe of Struffoli, you have to make them with aniseed liqueur. If you don’t like it or don’t have it at home, you can substitute it with Rum, limoncello or orange liqueur.
The Addition of Yeast: Yes or No?
The traditional struffoli recipe does not include the use of yeast. In any case, a small percentage of yeast in the dough allows you to get lighter honey balls, softer on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
Struffoli Italian Honey Balls: Butter, Oil, or Lard?
Once people used lard to make Struffoli, both in the dough and for frying. Nowadays, we use more butter than lard. If you don’t want to use animal fats, you can replace the butter with 80 g (about 6 tablespoons) of sunflower seed oil. The result is still excellent!
Baked Honey Balls. A Lighter Version of Struffoli Recipe
You can cook Struffoli in the oven at 200°C (390 F) for 15 minutes, on a baking sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Then decorate them with a little honey, poured only on their surface, and some sprinkles.
History and Origin of Struffoli Recipe
Struffoli were born in Naples. The nuns prepared them in the convents to give at Christmas to the noble families of the city.
Some think that it was the Greeks, who colonized the Gulf of Naples in the 7th century BC, who brought the Struffoli recipe to Italy. In fact, in Greek cuisine we find the “loukoumades“, which are small sweet balls, covered with sugar, very similar to our struffoli.
Furthermore, the word “struffoli” itself seems to derive from the Greek “strongoulos” which means “round”. Even the presence of honey, widely used by the Greeks for food preservation, would suggest Greek origins.
Others, on the other hand, believe that the origin of this Neapolitan Christmas dessert is Spanish. In fact, there is a Spanish dessert very similar to Struffoli, which is called “Piñonate”; they are elongated balls of dough.
So it may have been the Spaniards who brought this dessert to Italy during the very long period of Spanish rule in Naples.