Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A TRADITION OF CHRISTMAS PAST--AND RECIPE FOR STRUFFOLI (HONEY BALLS)

This tradition ended when my great grandmother (Grandma to everyone) passed away in 1988. She was the matriarch of the family, the mother of my maternal grandfather. When in her prime, “Josie Red” as she was known in Jersey City, was way ahead of her time, as a bootlegger during Prohibition, a real estate tycoon, a small-time loan shark, and according to legend, Mayor Frank Hague’s mistress. 

Every Christmas Eve, her daughter, (my great aunt Lucretia, a gourmet cook), invited everyone to her basement for an Italian feast. Grandma’s four children, one of whom was my grandfather, had children and grandchildren of their own. Of course this necessitated a ‘kiddie table’ at which I sat until I was tall enough to sit with the grown-ups. Aunt Lucretia always made two types of spaghetti sauce—regular marinara sauce and aglio e olio—but what I remember is it always contained clam sauce, which I wouldn’t touch, so I went for the plain marinara. Her finished basement had a small kitchen so she was able to do all the cooking right there. Kiddies weren’t allowed to, but several adults helped her carry the steaming plates to the long tables set up and covered with holiday-themed tablecloths. She served all the traditional Italian dishes—after the salad and pasta with meatballs and sausage came the ham, then the fruit and nuts, and of course, an array of desserts, always including her famous struffoli (honey balls) and Italian rum cake. My Uncle Eddie tended bar at the other end of the room. Thankfully, he’s still with us at 84. 

After dinner, Santa always showed up. My cousin Mike’s father played the part very convincingly—the kiddies scrambled onto his lap for their chance to gush about how well they behaved all year and how deserving they were of his visit later that night to surround their Christmas trees with presents to tear open the next morning. Someone always had a home movie camera to capture these special moments on film. I remember the lights always blazing like the noonday sun when the camera started rolling. 

Christmas Eves in the basement ended after Grandma left us, but the memories live on!

AN ITALIAN TRADITION--STRUFFOLI (HONEY BALLS)

 
 
When my grandparents came from Naples and landed at Ellis Island in the early 1900s they brought many recipes with them, but only in their heads. No one brought cookbooks or written recipes on the boat along with their possessions. A favorite Chrismas treat is Struffoli, better known as Honey Balls. One Christmas when I was a kid, I watched my grandmother make them and scribbled down the ingredients as she sifted and mixed and baked and drizzled. Here's an accurate recipe in English!
Ingredients
Dough:
•2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
•1 large lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•1/2 large orange, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•3 tablespoons sugar
•1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
•3 large eggs
•1 tablespoon white wine, such as pinot grigio
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•Canola oil, for frying
•1 cup honey
•1/2 cup sugar
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted (see Cook's Note)
•Vegetable oil cooking spray
•Sugar sprinkles, for decoration
•Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional
Directions
For the dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 2 cups of flour, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, wine, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture forms into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut each piece of dough into 1/2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip of pastry into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball about the size of a hazelnut. Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes.). In batches, fry the dough until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. (The rested and quartered dough can also be rolled on a floured work surface into 1/2-inch thick logs and cut into equal-sized 1/2-inch pieces. The dough pieces can then be rolled into small balls and fried as above).
In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the fried dough and hazelnuts and stir until coated in the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan for 2 minutes.
Spray the outside of a small, straight-sided water glass with vegetable oil cooking spray and place in the center of a round platter. Using a large spoon or damp hands, arrange the struffoli and hazelnuts around the glass to form a wreath shape. Drizzle any remaining honey mixture over the struffoli. Allow to set for 2 hours (can be made 1 day in advance).
Decorate with sprinkles and dust with powdered sugar, if using. Remove the glass from the center of the platter and serve.
Note: To toast the hazelnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven until lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before using.
Total Time: 4 hr 12 min
Prep: 1 hr 30 min
Yield:8 to 10 servings


Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Enter Here:

http://thewildrosepress.blogspot.com/

An Italian Tradition - Honey Balls

When my grandparents came from Naples and landed at Ellis Island in the early 1900s they brought many recipes with them, but only in their heads. No one brought cookbooks or written recipes on the boat along with their possessions. A favorite Chrismas treat is Struffoli, better known as Honey Balls. One Christmas when I was a kid, I watched my grandmother make them and scribbled down the ingredients as she sifted and mixed and baked and drizzled. Here's an accurate recipe in English!
See the recipe here:
http://forum.thewildrosepress.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=273