Saturday, December 17, 2016

Strufoli the easy way

Strufoli (Honey Clusters)

Okay, my blog is not about cooking, baking or any food discussions. It's about art.  Well, today I realized making traditional Italian strufoli is an art!
I'm not a master, but I've been making them for at least 40 yrs and have gotten the process down quite well.
The recipe is traditional, no fancy additions. It's a peasant cookie and I see no reason to change it.
EXCEPT for the shape of them! And the method!
Traditionally, the dough is shaped into little balls, fried, coated with honey and then stuck together in a big mound. You break off a chunk to eat. Honey clusters.

Well, the balls have a little chewiness to them. Not crunchy. Everyone in my family prefers them
more crisp.  I don't know if my mom or my Aunt Jean came up with the idea of frying them in strips. That's the way we did it from there on. The result is crisp and light.
My great aunt Pia made them the traditional way, piled high like a tree and sprinkled them with the tiny colored candy nonpareils.

One of my Italian friends also makes strufoli.  She also cuts them in strips instead of balls.  So, I guess her family came to the same decision!  She calls them "squeelies".  I was so puzzled by that name. Never heard it before. I searched all over the internet trying to figure out what that word was in Italian, but no luck.  Yesterday, while I was frying, I heard a distinct squealing sound when the cookie was in the hot oil.  Now I believe they nicknamed them after the sound they make!
Cut, fried and waiting for a honey bath

Back in the 60s, my mom got a copy of this Italian cookbook. Probably bought it in Shop Rite. Hers is ripped up and well used. I found this one on ebay.  It has the recipe and technique. I will add in my changes. It took me three hours start to finish to do 3 batches. Each batch fills a large cookie sheet.

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Okay, so one batch. 2 cups of flour & 1/2 tsp. salt in my Kitchenaid mixer. Add 3 eggs, one at a time stirring to combine. Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  I let my machine knead this with the hook for 5 minutes at least.  It turns out to be a smooth dough that totally cleans the sides of the bowl.  Looks like pasta dough. It's stiff. I put it in a zip lock bag so it doesn't get dried out while I am setting up my machines!
 In the old days, they rolled it out.  Not me!

I have an electric motor that attaches to the hand crank pasta maker I've had for at least 35 yrs.
Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball.  I feed it through the pasta maker at the #3 setting. After I've done that with the entire ball of dough, I change the machine to #5 and put them through again. #6 is as thin as it goes.  That's TOO thin.
I toss around a little flour on my butcher block surface. The dough isn't sticky.
Still, better to use too much flour than none at all. 

With a pizza wheel, you can cut the long strips into pieces 2-3" long.
They curl and get funky when they hit the hot oil.

I use an old Fry Daddy.  Add several inches of canola oil. Temperature at 365 which is donut frying temp. 
Drain them on paper towel lined cookie sheets

This is when they do the squealing!  Do not walk away! They are done very quickly.  Pretty much when they stop sizzling. I flip them around in the hot oil as they cook.  Use long tongs to take them out. They will NOT be brown.

No, this is not spaghetti sauce! LOL!  It's one cup of honey being warmed. Not sure why it looks orange.
You can cheat and add a little good old fashioned high fructose corn syrup (Karo Syrup) to stretch your honey.
That's ok, you can't tell the difference.
I toss a few of the strips in the warm and thinned honey, take them out and stack on a big platter. It's ok if the strip isn't completely covered in honey. They drip on each other and the honey gets shared amongst them. 

Very sticky strufoli ready to give to my Irish friends!

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