Growing up in a three generation household with my Italian grandparents was a gift. My Christmas time memories are so vivid. My grandmother set up a round folding table with a green wool skirt with a beautiful green and red embroidered linen topper where she displayed all her Christmas treats. I would sneak in and “steal” a ball off her honey wreaths and pray she wouldn’t notice. I’m sure she knew but she never let on....
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1/2 orange
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla or grappa or limoncella
canola oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
2 cups honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add eggs and vanilla. Slowly incorporate using your fingers. Gather into a ball and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat (to test temperature - toss small piece of dough - when it sizzles vigorously - it’s ready!!) Grab a golf ball sized ball of dough and roll it between your hands so it forms into a rope about 1/3” in diameter. Then cut rope into 1/3” pieces. Fry the balls in batches. Place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Once the balls are done, begin making the honey syrup. Heat the honey, sugar and water in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved then turn up the heat until the liquid boils and bubbls. When the foam dies down and the mixture has darkened (all takes about 4 minutes +/-), take off the heat and add the fried balls.
Using a slotted spoon, remove honey balls and arrange on a lightly oiled piece of wax or parchment paper. My grandmother used a glass to form the center of a wreath and put balls all around and then sprinkle with candied fruit or nuts. She brought the struffoli wreaths to all her friends and relatives when they visited them during the holidays - a lovely tradition!!
Spicy Curried Walnuts
These have been in my Mom’s and my stable of winners for years. They make excellent bar treats, great hostess gifts and are fantastic in a salad.
1 lb walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
First you need to blanch walnuts for about a minute in boiling water. Drain and toss well with sugar and oil. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Spread walnuts in a single layer and place in the middle of the oven. Check and turn the walnuts every 7-10 minutes until golden. I find the process is about 25 minutes but be careful - one extra minute can turn your golden nuts black. Remove golden nuts and put in a large bowl. Mix all spices and then toss with the warm nuts. Spread nuts in a single layer to cool. Once cool, store in a sealed container and Enjoy!!
I am inspired this season to be a mad baker and maker of yummy edible gifts. I've got my plan and I will share with you as I prepare each goodie. But for whatever reason, I decided to go off my list when I was paging through December's Country Living Magazine and make Butter and Cream Caramels and yes they are an indulgence extraordinaire. I'll need to go for a good long jog to keep these off my hips...but what are the holidays if not for eating lots of amazing food!! Here's the recipe with my comments and tweaks, of course!!
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
canola oil for greasing
Line an 8 x 8 pan with foil and brush with canola oil.
In a medium saucepan over high heat cook the sugar without stirring until it begins to melt and boil at which time you can stir slowly with a metal spoon until melted (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and add cream. The sugar will harden almost immediately. Then add in the butter and corn syrup. Attach candy thermometer and return saucepan to stove over low heat, stirring occasionally for around 30 minutes until mixture liquefies. (This is a challenging spot as it seems as though it will never happen and then it just does.) Once that happens, turn the heat up and cook caramel mixture until the thermometer reaches 238 degrees F.
Remove from stove and stir in the vanilla. Then pour into prepared 8 x8 pan. Cool caramel for at least 30 minutes, lift from pan, remove foil and place on an oiled cutting board. Using an oiled knife, cut caramel into 1" squares. (I found it worked best when the caramel had sat for a while on the cutting board and when I ran my knife under hot water and then oiled it - the caramel did not stick to the knife.)
Wrap the individual pieces in 4 x 4 wrappers and then package them in a larger plastic bag with pretty ribbon.