Struffoli Italian Honey Balls are a specialty treat during the Christmas holidays. They’re deep fried morsels of dough which are then dipped in a citrus scented honey syrup and topped with festive sprinkles.
What are Struffoli
Struffoli are teeny tiny puffs of dough the size of a hazelnut and are deep fried till golden brown in colour. Then, they’re tossed in a warm honey and orange syrup which the fritters lovingly soak up.
There’s a small amount of sugar in the dough itself and gets most of its sweetness from the warmed honey. So do choose a good quality one!
I’ve made a few tweaks to this recipe since it was last posted a few years back.
This time around, I’ve added Grand Marnier liquor to the dough mixture. But there are other great alternatives. You can use limoncello as I’ve always done and which would greatly compliment a lemon honey syrup. Rum, brandy or grappa are also wonderful choices.
I’ve also added an extra egg and substituted the oil with melted butter. And with these few tweaks, a smaller amount of flour worked best.
Overall, this yielded a softer, plump struffoli ball and was gobbled up in a flash.
How to Make Italian Honey Balls
- In the bowl of stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and your liquor of choice.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Once you’ve achieved a soft malleable dough, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface .
- Knead the dough for about 1 minute while adding just enough flour on the work surface and hands to form a slightly tacky dough.
- Cover the dough and allow to rest for about 1/2 hour.
- Cut off small pieces dough and at a time and roll into 1/2 inch ropes. If slightly sticky just dust your hands with a little bit of flour.
- Cut the ropes into small pieces the size of a hazelnut and using your hands, shape the dough into small balls.
- Transfer onto a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.
- Deep fry the dough balls until golden brown in colour and transfer onto a paper lined cookie sheet to absorb any excess oil.
- In a separate stove top pan, heat the honey and zest together just until it reaches a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the deep fried dough balls while turning to coat all over with a rubber spatula.
If you don’t have a large stovetop pot, you can warm the honey in a smaller pot and transfer the warm honey to a large mixing bowl. And, then simply toss in the fried balls.
How To Serve Struffoli, Italian Honey Balls
There are many ways you can be creative when serving up these morsels!
Dust off your favourite holiday platter and pile them up high. Add a generous sprinkle of some festive nonpareils and you’ll have the appearance of a Christmas tree.
Or shape into a Christmas wreath. Simply grease a tall glass and place it in the centre of your serving plater and spoon handfuls of the honey balls around the glass.
Decorate with candied red and green cherries, sprinkles and allow to set an hour or so then remove the glass.
The Many Names of Struffoli
Struffoli are deep fried, honey drenched little morsels from Naples and are a typical Christmas time treat. Its history dates back to the 8th century when the Greeks colonized the southern Italian peninsula.
As with most Italian foods, these Struffoli are similar to other treats from different regions in Italy and go by different names.
In Abbruzzo, Le Marche and in Umbria they’re called Cicerchiata. In Basilica…Cicirata and in Calabria they’re known by Turtiddi.
And, as a reader kindly pointed out, in Sicily they are known as Pignoccata or even Pignolata!
Whatever name you may call them we can certainly agree that they’re fun to make, yummy and extremely addictive!
Other Holiday Cookies You’ll Love:
If you make this recipe remember to tag @marisasitaliankitchen on Instagram so I can see your creation!
Struffoli Italian Honey Balls
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liquor (limoncello, grappa or rum are also good choices)
- zest from 1 whole lemon (you can also use orange zest)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (plus approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons for kneading)
- vegetable oil (for deep frying)
- 1 cup honey
- grated zest of one orange
- sprinkles (of your choice)
- In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, liquor and zest.
- Stir in the salt, baking powder, 2 ½ cups of the flour, just until you achieve a soft malleable dough.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and with floured hands knead lightly for a minute, while adding in only enough flour to achieve a slightly tacky dough.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for a 1/2 hour.
- Cut off small pieces of dough at a time and roll out into 1/2 inch thick ropes. If the dough feels sticky, dust your hands lightly with flour.
- Cut the ropes into small pieces the size of a hazelnut and shape into round balls with your hands.
- Transfer the shaped balls to parchment lined cookie sheets and repeat with the remaining dough. (you’ll need 2 parchment lined cookie sheets)
- Fill a large and heavy deep sauce pot with oil, reaching about 2 inches high in the pot.
- Heat the oil over medium high heat to about 350 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer for accuracy.
- Fill a spider ladle or skimmer ladle with the pieces of dough and then using the ladle gently lower it into the hot oil.
- Fry until golden brown for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then transfer onto a paper towel lined tray to drain.
- Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. I fried the tiny balls in 3 batches)
- In a separate large frying pan, heat the honey and orange zest to a gentle simmer over low heat.
- Remove the warmed honey from the heat.
- Add all the fried struffoli to the warmed honey and gently stir till the fried balls are evenly coated.
- Arrange the honey balls on a serving plater and pour any remaining honey mixture over the struffoli.
- Top with sprinkles of your choice and serve slightly warm or cooled off.