What the heck is a Struffoli, I can hear you asking. Well it is a traditional Italian Christmas dessert that consists of fried balls of dough draped in honey and then mounded into a tower so you can pick them off and eat them all day long. My family never had this dessert, but for some reason last year I thought to myself... "if I have time next year, I'm making Stuffoli!" Well, I didn't really have time, but I decided to make it anyway. I searched my cookbooks and the internet for a good recipe that would make a lot because I wanted to have one for my family and one for Nick's family. I opted to use Mario Batali's recipe because it called for 3 1/2 cups of flour and I thought that would make a huge batch. Still, it wasn't enough for two trays worth.
To make the dough, you mix 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 6 egg yolks, 6 eggs, Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange (of course, if you know me at all you know I left the orange out!), 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon limoncello (I don't normally have this on hand to I used vanilla extract instead). Once the dough forms a firm ball, you cover it and put it in the refrigerator to rest for 30 minutes. When you take it out, pull off pieces and roll to the about the size of a golf ball and then roll that into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. From there, cut pieces about a half an inch and then roll them into balls.
In the meantime, be heating up a large pot with about 3 inches of oil (I used vegetable, canola or something similar would work too. I've seen recipes that call for olive oil, but I don't think I'd try that, there is too much likelihood that it could burn) and heat to 375 degrees.
When the oil is ready, drop the struffoli in one by one and make sure not to crowd the pan. They will puff up. Cook them until they turn a nice golden brown.
Then remove with a slotted spin (or I use a spider) to a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain. There are a lot of struffoli and it will take a little while to get them all done. Make sure you watch your oil temp, once you start frying, the temp fluctuates quite a bit.
After you finish frying, in a large skillet with high sides, heat 2 cups of honey with the juice and zest of one lemon until the honey is significantly thinner and warmed through. Then put the struffoli in the pan and coat with the honey mixture. Turn off the heat and let the struffoli sit in the pan for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
After they are liberally coated, take the struffoli and mound them up on a nice platter, and pour any honey left in the pan over the top. Then top with sprinkles (you can also use lemon and orange zest for garnish or whatever you like!). Mario says these should keep for 5 days, as is.
Now that all that is out of the way, I will say that I'm not overly thrilled with my result. My struffoli came out dry and tough. They improved greatly with the addition of the honey/lemon sauce, but I'm still not going to serve them. This morning they feel very hard. They just didn't come out as puffy and light as I had hoped. I attribute this to a few things... 1) it was my first time making them and 2) I had to go out yesterday to buy eggs and I could only find extra large. That adds a lot more liquid to the dough and I had to keep adding more flour to make the dough less sticky. But even though these came out less than perfect, I will make them again next year!
12/29/07 - I discussed this outcome with my Grandma (99 years old and going strong!) and she suggested that if it happens again (that I can only find extra large eggs), that I should just omit one. Good advice! I wish I had thought of it at the time. But (thanks to Elaine!) new information has come to light that the recipe I used had a typo in it!! It was supposed to be 1 egg yolk, not six. That makes much more sense!