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Authentic Struffoli Recipe (Italian Honey Balls)

Struffoli Recipe (Italian Honey Balls)- these tiny fried dough balls are covered in delightful citrus-scented honey syrup and decorated with colorful sprinkles. They are fun to make with family and friends and are a classic Italian dessert. 

  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

Dough

  • 2 cups of “00” flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of liquor (grappa, orange liquor, rum, brandy, white wine, or limoncello)
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest (or lemon zest)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cups Sunflower oil or vegetable oil, for frying

Honey Glaze

  • 3/4 cup of Wildflower or Acacia honey
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice)

For Decoration

  • Rainbow Sprinkles (nonpareils)
  • Candied fruit (optional)

Instructions

Dough 

  1. Add eggs and sugar to the bowl of a food processor (see notes for making by hand); pulse until creamy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Be patient and let the sugar and eggs get to the creamy texture. Add orange zest, liquor, and vanilla extract, and process until combined.
  2. Add flour and baking powder to the mixture and pulse until a few times (not too much). Add the butter pieces and pulse until thoroughly combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Wrap the dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

Shaping Dough

  1. When the dough is chilled, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into four even sections.
  2. Roll each section into a long rope, about the same thickness as your finger. Cut each rope of dough into sections ½ to 1-inch wide. Hint: I prefer mine to be slightly larger than the standard marble size. 
  3. Roll each section into small balls in the palms of your hands – the balls should be the size of a hazelnut or marble (they will puff up when frying!). Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover them with a clean kitchen towel as you roll out all the balls. 

Frying Dough Balls

  1. Prepare a large plate or baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set it next to your stove.
  2. Add oil to a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to reach a frying temperature of 350°F. (Use an instant-read candy thermometer to determine the oil temperature). Or, test one dough ball to see if bubbles form around it, and it quickly turns a golden brown color. 
  3. Fry dough balls in hot oil (batches of about 15). Stir a couple of times until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to help the dough balls move in the oil to get a nice, even golden brown color.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dough balls, carefully shake the excess oil back into the pan, then transfer the fried dough to the paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat frying with the remaining dough.

Honey Glaze 

  1. Add honey and orange juice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Cook, continuously stirring with a wooden spoon, until the honey is runny, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the fried dough balls to a large mixing bowl. Pour the honey mixture on top of the struffoli and toss to combine until the struffoli are fully coated with the honey mixture. 

Serving the Struffoli 

  1. Spray a tall cylindrical drinking glass with non-stick cooking spray and set it in the center of a round serving platter, plate, or cake plate (alternatively- use a springform pan to set and shape the struffoli balls). You can also serve them in a large mound on a serving plate. 
  2. Use a rubber spatula to mound the glazed struffoli balls to form a wreath around the glass. 
  3. Allow the struffoli to set for 2-3 hours (you can make up struffoli until this part 1 day in advance).
  4. Before serving, remove the glass from the center of the wreath. Sprinkle liberally with rainbow nonpareils. (note: serve within 3 hours of adding sprinkles, or their color will start to melt into the honey. It will still taste delicious even if the sprinkles melt).  

Notes

Struffoli Dough by Hand

  • Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well, and add the mixed wet ingredients (make sure to beat egg and sugar until pale and creamy in with hand mixers).
  • Whisk with a fork to incorporate wet and dry ingredients until crumble forms. Add chunks of butter and keep incorporating and mixing the dough. Dough will be sticky.
  • When the dough comes together, place it on a lightly floured surface—Knead for about 10 minutes or until shiny and smooth. Cover and let rest. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as follows.

Alternatively, you can use your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to knead the dough.

Top tips

  • Don’t Overmix! Mixing the struffoli dough too much will guarantee tough dough and hard-as-a-rock fried balls – so sad for all the work of these soft little dough balls!!
  • Oil temperature. The oil should be between 350F-360F when you start frying. If the oil is not hot enough, the chiacchiere will absorb too much oil and feel and taste greasy. If the oil is too hot (burning/smoking), it’ll give an unpleasant burned oil flavor to the pastry.
  • Let rest on paper towels - As soon as they come out of the oil, place them on kitchen towels to stay nice and crisp.
  • Use a slotted spoon to stir the balls and gently lift the finished ones, draining any excess oil before moving to the baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Making Ahead of Time

The fried and cooled dough balls can be made and refrigerated (for up to 5 days) or frozen (up to 1 month) in an airtight container. When ready to use, bring them to room temperature and coat them with the warm honey mixture.

Freezing Struffoli

Yes, you can freeze struffoli, but it is not recommended to freeze the uncooked dough. Freeze the already-fried dough balls. Make the dough, form the balls, fry them, and let them cool for about 30 minutes. Place them into plastic freezer bags and freeze them for up to one month. When ready to serve, take them out of the freezer and defrost them at room temperature. Make the honey syrup and toss the defrosted struffoli in the syrup. Cover with sprinkles and serve!

 

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: struffoli, honey balls, Italian recipe, sweet dough, Christmas recipe