Category Archives: CHRISTMAS COOKIES

STRUFFOLI….FRIED HONEY BALLS FROM MY MOM’S KITCHEN

There is no Christmas Season without Struffoli. That’s that. At least in my home anyway. Struffoli are a holiday treat made during the Christmas season throughout Southern Italy. They go by various names depending on the region, people from in and around Naples called the STRUFFOLI. Further south in Calabria they are Turdilli. In Sicily they go by the term PIGNOLATA. The recipes vary as well. It’s a sort of pastry dough, rolled and cut into small pieces and fried. After that they are given a bath in warm honey mixed with citrus juices, or something alcoholic or toasted nuts, confetti, etc. This dish came right over with the Great Wave of Southern Italianimmigrants in the years from 1890-1940 and has become almost an Icon of the ItalianAmerican Christmas celebration. In Naples there’s a specific traditional recipe but in Italian America there are many versions, styles, types of dough that are used. My mom had 2 recipes she used, the first one is same recipe as the Anginetti (Ciambelline) cookie that i’ve previously blogged. The second one is a close recipe to that and it produces a semi-soft Struffolo. I’m going to blog that one now. The joy of Christmas and the Holiday season is due in large part to the memories created either watching or helping my mom make her annual Italian dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Especially since my parents and grandparents have passed away my siblings and our families keep the recipes alive, get together and recreate most or all of them and have something that no matter what tells us who we are and where we came from. We’ve passed this on to our own children who jump in and look forward to recreating this family recipes. The Struffoli is one of them. Oh don’t ask for an EASY or quick version. It’s time consuming and that’s why you pay up when you buy them at a Bakery. With some Italian Christmas Music on, and a few espresso under your belt you’ll enjoy yourself while you make these. Takes a few hours, how many? I’ve never counted. Do you really need to count when you’re connecting to your past and your present? I don’t think so. Mom never rushed through hers either. Enjoy the process. Merry Christmas!!!

STRUFFOLI , MY MOM’S RECIPE MAKES ABOUT 3 1/2-4 DOZEN

6 EGGS BEATEN IN A BOWL

1 STICK BUTTER SLIGHTLY SOFTENED

1/2 CUP SUGAR

2 1/2-3 CUPS OF SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 TSPS. BAKING POWDER

1 TSP. VANILLA

1 TSP EACH OF FINELY MINCED LEMON AND ORANGE ZEST

2 TBS. BRANDY, GRAPPA, ORANGE BRANDY, UP TO YOU

1/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

6 CUPS FRYING OIL

2 CUPS HONEY

1/4 CUP SUGAR

JUICE OF 1 LEMON

JUICE OF 1 ORANGE

CONFETTI (MULTI COLORED NON PAREILS)

TOASTED SLIVERED ALMONDS (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar in a Mixing bowl till light and fluffy. Now add the beaten eggs in a stream as you have the mixer on. When This is all well blended add the vanilla and the zest. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup as the mixer is on medium. When it’s well blended and pulls away from the bowl knead it till smooth. Have a well floured surface prepared. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Then make ropes out of the pieces cutting them into small pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Continue until all the dough is used up. I place them on parchment paper covered baking sheets.

In a deep fryer or a heavy pot filled with the oil, heat it until it’s at 375 degrees F or when you add a struffolo it does the tarantella in the pot…(ie: i sizzles and turns around and around). Add a few struffoli at a time, like 10-15 and gently move them around with a spider or frying spoon with holes in it. When they are golden brown all around remove and drain on brown paper or paper towels. When you are done, start the honey by simply Heating it on a low flame with the juices and the 1/4 cup sugar. Stir until all the sugar has been disolved. Add the struffoli about 20 at a times and give them a “bath” in the honey. Using a slotted spoon keep basting the struffoli in the honey for about minutes. Pile them up onto a serving tray or bowl. Continue until all the struffoli are piled. Pour the honey over the top and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then sprinkle with the confetti (and toasted Almonds if using). You can even make small rings out of the batch. Again, up to you. Mine go into a big tin and we pick out of it thru the holidays.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from A FOOD OBSESSION AND FAMILY TO ALL OF YOU!!

MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS COOKIE, THE ANGINETTI (CIAMBELLINE)..

IMG_6361  What makes a Holiday special?  I really think it’s a mix of the present with a heavy dose of the past.  Holidays like all parts of our lives should be a blend and one should not dwell too deeply in the past because much of what was there no longer is.  Cooking is one of the easy areas to recreate those past memories and that is no more apparent than at the end of the year cycle of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.  Everything is different from the rest of the year. There are no Menorah lightings in June.  Santa does not come down the chimney in May.  Once a year we bring out decorations and treasured family recipes that connect us to our identities. My Holiday gift to you all at this Christmas time  is my Mom’s CIAMBELLINE recipe.  The proper name for this cookie is ANGINETTI and it was taught to my mom’s mother, my Grandma Maria Adelina Melito Scaramuzzi by her sister in law, my Zi’Caterina Scaramuzzi Luberto.  So this story begins with a sister in law sharing a recipe from Grassano, Matera, Basilicata in Italy with her little brother’s new wife.  My Luberto relatives call this cookie the GINETTE (obviously their way of saying Anginetti) but my grandmother who came from a different town in Italy tagged them with her local name for them, you see, this cookie is made all over Southern Italy and by all the immigrants and their families here in the U.S. and all over the world.  My Grandmother used the term CIAMBELLINE..it’s the word for wreath, something with no beginning and no end.  It’s an ancient pagan symbol of a snake biting it’s own tail, a symbol of life eternal, a symbol of the unending cycle of birth and death.  Other names for this cookies are Lemon Drop, Anisette Drop, Love Knots, Taralli (that is a generic Italian word for small cookies), Orange Juice Cookies, Italian Knot Cookies, etc.  The point is it’s all the same cookie but depending on where your ancestors in Italy came from the flavorings may be different. Our family’s recipe relies on Lemon, Orange, and Anisette.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen buying your extracts stick with 100% pure, never imitation. READ LABELS ALWAYS!! Lots of labels fool you into thinking they are the real deal.  It should be noted that while I’m writing this I’m also eating a CIAMBELLINE as well. How’s THAT for inspiration??? Now before we get started realize that this is only my way which I’m sure is somewhat modified in some way from when my Grandmother handed out this recipe to every child and grandchild.  In some she used melted butter, in others the butter was creamed. My earliest recollections were of the melted so that’s my preferred method. Here is a recipe card written by my mom for her mother’s CIAMBELLINE:1460286_237205316447776_1865507221_n  Give me a moment to wipe a tear away, I certainly miss my Mom and Grandmother, but what a great legacy to honor them by then to recreate every year in our own kitchens something that gave them great joy to share. Time to make CIAMBELLINE (or GIAMBIS as mom called them for short).

MAKES:  about 48 depending on how big you are making them

TIME: 2 hours

8 cups SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 TSP. KOSHER SALT

8 tsp BAKING POWDER

3 sticks MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

JUICE OF ONE ORANGE

1 cup SUGAR

7 EGGS, beaten

1/2 tsp. of ANISETTE EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. VANILLA EXTRACT

1 1/2 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1 1/2 TSP. ORANGE ZEST

 

LARGE MIXING BOWL

First mix together the beaten eggs with the Sugar till well blended.  Now add the zests, the extracts, juice and blend well then do the same by adding the melted butter.  Make sure it is cooled.. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Now in batches sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and gently blend into the bowl until it’s a soft, not too sticky, pliable dough.  You may have to gently knead with your hands and don’t panic if it’s still a bit sticky.  To get to the right consistency simply dust a little more flour into the bowl and onto your hands and only add enough until you are at a smooth dough. Then stop and let it rest for a good 15 minutes.  Pull of the dough in small balls, like a golf ball size and roll into a rope then turn it into a knot.  Place onto sturdy baking sheets.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Remember, there’s no “set” size so no debating on this.  Make that your own preference.  Our family likes them a bit bigger than some other families do.  CIAMBELLINE cook fairly quickly and are NOT supposed to be a dark brown.  Bake for 10 minutes, check the bottom to see if it’s light brown.  A good method for a first timer is to break one of the cooked ones open to see if it’s done because the tops may look “not done” to you.  This is part of the practice makes perfect notion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s it, that’s done.  Look in the picture at how light they appear on their tops.  Yet, the interior is done.  The longer you cook them the harder their texture will be. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  If you want more color to your tops leave them in a little longer.  However, in any case these are an iced cookie.  When you are done with your last batch going in it’s time to make the icing glaze.

ICING:

JUICE OF 2 LEMONS

JUICE OF 1/2 ORANGE

4 cups of CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR

1 TSP ANISETTE EXTRACT

1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT

1/2 tsp of LEMON ZEST

1/2 TSP OF ORANGE ZEST

MIX everything together till you get a nice icing consistency.  If it appears too loose, in small batches add more confectioner’s sugar. Dip the cookies on their tops into the icing and let the excess run off.  Grandma Scaramuzzi suggests that you also dip the bottoms as that will encase the cookies in the icing and keep them fresh longer.  I personally listen to her.  Place the iced cookies on racks and top them with small CONFETTI ( multi colored Non-Pareils).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  There is nothing in this world FOR ME that says it’s either Christmas, Easter, or a special occasion than the sight and smell of CIAMBELLINE in my kitchen.

Like the symbolism of Birth and Death between Christmas and Easter and the unending circle of Life that we all share, these cookies tie me into that natural occurrence.  May you all have fun baking these cookies and thank you for letting me share them with you all.

May each one of you enjoy the Holidays…however or whatever you make them out to be…Celebrate…and Happy Cooking!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA