Stuffoli – Pignolati – Cicerchie – Diavolilli


Although this recipe has many variations throughout the Mediterranean, this very popular Christmas sweet reflects the Neapolitan tendency to extravagance where desserts are concerned. These addictive little balls of pastry are deep fried, dipped in honey, tossed with candied fruits and slivered almonds, then shaped into a tall mound or a ring, like a Christmas tree or wreath.

  • 4 C. flour
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4 T. butter/olive oil/lard
  • 2 T. Brandy/Strega/orange-flavored liquor/limoncello
  • grated peel of 2 small lemons or 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1/4 C. diced candied citron
  • 1/4 C. candied orange peel
  • 1/4 C. toasted slivered almonds
  • 4 red candied cherries, halved
  • 4 C. canola oil for frying
  • 1 1/4 C. honey
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sugar

Arrange the flour in a mound on a pasta board and make a well in the center. In the center of the well put the sugar, salt, eggs, yolks, butter, the grated lemon peel and liquor. Mix all the center ingredients together with a wooden spoon or a fork. Gradually incorporate the flour from the inside rim of the well little by little with the other ingredients (as though you were making pasta). When all of the flour has been incorporated, start kneading the dough with the palms of your hands, using a folding motion, until the dough is smooth and homogenous. Cover it with plastic wrap and let rest for about 2 hours.

Or, in a mixer bowl, combine the flour, eggs, yolks, butter, grated citrus peel and liquor. Using the paddle attachment mix until the dough comes together. Change to the dough hook and knead about 5 minutes on medium speed until a firm dough has been formed. Cover and rest as above.

In the meantime, dice the citron, sliver the candied orange peel, toast and sliver the almonds, and halve the cherries.

Cut the dough into several pieces and roll each piece into a thin, long rope. Cut the rope into 1/4 inch cross-wise pieces. Roll each piece between the palms to form small balls about the size of large chickpeas. Keep unrolled portions of dough covered to prevent drying.

Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or 12-14 inch skillet with at least 3 inch sides to 375°F. Drop the struffoli in to cover about half of the surface of the oil and cook until golden, about 1 minute. They will puff up while cooking. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a dish lined with paper towels.

After the struffoli have been fried, prepare the honey syrup. Place the honey, water, and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Cook until the mixture becomes golden in color and if a few drops are put in a glass of cool water, a soft ball will be formed.

To the honey syrup add the struffoli, the citron, the orange peel and the almonds. Stir gently to thoroughly coat the dough balls. Let cool about 10 minutes.

Arrange the struffoli into a tall mound or a ring. Decorate with the cherry halves. Let rest for about 2 hours before serving. Keep them out on the table for nibbling at will. They will keep for at least a week – if not devoured by then.

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