What Is Struffoli And What Does It Taste Like?

When the holiday season rolls around, it's nice to dive into a sweet treat for the occasion. However, preparation time is always limited this time of year, so anything you make ahead or purchase at a bakery only alleviates the stress. So, for a delicious dessert that's easy to obtain in volume, turn to tasty struffoli.

These festive dough balls are popular in Neopolitan cuisine, with varying origins across the Mediterranean. Their exterior is crispy, while the dough hearts retain a pleasant softness. Drowned in an orange-honey syrup, and sprinkled with tasty garnishes, they're the perfect bundle of holiday fun. Plus, they're easy to batch, and exhibit an aesthetic stacked shape that's easy to turn creative.

No surprise they're interlinked with special holidays, like Easter, Christmas, and New Year's. So expand them to your holiday table, too. They're relatively straightforward to craft and are easily modified. Let's dive into the details of these pastries.

Background of struffoli

Although now strongly interlinked with Italian cuisine, specifically of Naples, struffoli has an undefined Mediterranean background. They likely emerged at a confluence of Middle Eastern and European cuisines, somewhere in the area of Greece and Turkey. In fact, the name originates from the Greek stróngylos, which means strong. Many centuries-old variations similar to struffoli exist around the Mediterranean region. Ancient Romans prepared a similar creation called Globulos, which was a sweet treat fried in lard. Meanwhile, the Spanish crafted a dish called Piñonate, flavored with anise and honey, which may have been brought to the city during a conquest in the 16th century.

Regardless, struffoli creation perpetuated through the decades and became interlinked with the holidays. In Naples, they're enjoyed on Christmas and New Year, while in Italian-American communities, it has become an Easter treat. Regardless of the occasion, they're frequently decorated with festive toppings and formed into fun shapes. Especially in Italy, families have unique recipes passed through generations.

What is struffoli?

Struffoli are dough balls fried to crispy perfection, doused in honey, and then topped with a myriad of toppings. The dough is crafted with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and a flavored liqueur, with anise-tinged booze being the go-to in Italy. Traditionally, the sweet bite was fried in lard, although nowadays, most preparations opt for butter or deep fry in oil instead. Meanwhile, further flavors are integrated into the honey glaze, with many adding orange juice for a zestier tang. The components are melded together in a pan to combine, before assembling for serving.

Struffoli are often garnished with festive toppings, and arranged into fun shapes. They can be stacked into towers or made to represent items, like Christmas trees. The sticky exterior is covered with everything from sprinkles to candied fruit, crushed nuts, other syrups, and more. Their lightly floral, sweet taste combined with a delectable crispy texture melds well with a variety of flavors, making them an easily-customizable holiday treat.