This traditional Italian sweet has different names in different regions: Struffoli in Naples area, which are among the most popular Christmas sweets; Cicerchiata in Abruzzi region, where you cannot miss them during Carnival time. The concept is simple, fried sweet dough balls, coated in caramelised honey. Tasty and long lasting, to make at the beginning of holiday season and to offer to friends and relatives coming over for holiday wishes.
600g plain flour
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2ml rum extract
1/2 lemon, zested
1 pinch salt
vegetable oil for deep frying
sugar sprinkles to decorate
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In a bowl place the flour and gradually the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, rum extract, butter, lemon zest and salt. Mix to create a soft dough then cover in plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes.
Take some of the dough a make a thin log, as thin as your small pinkie finger, about 1/2cm. Cut and make small balls. While working, dust with flour that already made balls, to prevent sticking.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan. Place a few balls in a sieve, shake off the flour and dip in the hot oil until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Proceed the same way with remaining dough, frying in batches.
Place the honey in a saucepan and cook on low heat until caramelised. To test, drop some honey in a glass of water, if ready, it will soon form a little ball. Add the little fried balls to the sauce pan and gently coat in honey, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Pass a serving plate under tap water and shake off the water. Transfer the balls to the serving plate and with damp hands or with a damp wooden spoon give the mix the shape of a ring or, simply, a dome. Dust with sugar sprinkles and/or with candied orange or lemon peels. Cool completely and serve. Store in airtight tin and enjoy up to 2 weeks.
You can also shape the struffoli on a wet working surface and then transfer to a serving plate. Or you can make the ring shape transferring the mix on a ring cake mould lined with a baking parchment, always wet (some water will help with the shaping and prevent too much sticking).