Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 1 "Struffoli"

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year,” by Charles Dickens

One of my favorite things about this time of year is holiday baking and making wonderful homemade gifts. As I get into the holiday spirit and prepare for Christmas, I thought I would give you, my readers a special treat. Everyday for the next 12 days I will post a cookie recipe, a holiday sweet, homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that will lead up to Christmas Day. It is my way of celebrating the “12 Days of Christmas.” So, as I prepare for the most joyous time of the year what better way to share my favorite Christmas traditions with all of you.

Before I share my recipe for the “1st Day of Christmas,” let’s find out the Roman Catholic meaning of the countdown called “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I for one had no idea that this Christmas song had two levels of meanings, the original as a love song, (which I knew) plus a hidden religious meaning, (which I did not know). See how many of you knew this.

One partridge in a pear tree: was Jesus Christ.
Two turtle doves: were the Old and New Testaments
Three French hens: stood for faith, hope and love.
Four calling birds: were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Five golden rings: recalled the Torah or Law, first five books of the Old Testament
Six geese a-laying: stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming: represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.
Eight maids a-milking: were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing: were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
Ten Lords a-leaping: were the Ten Commandments.
Eleven pipers piping: stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
Twelve drummers drumming: symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

On the 1st Day of Christmas: "Italian Struffoli"

When I hear the word Christmas I immediately think of baking. The aromas of the house surrounding each and every room. The sweet smell of cinnamon, raisins, nuts, brown sugar and gingerbread. The oven in the kitchen going non-stop, plus seeing the flour, sugar, and the cookie cutters bring back so many memories of my family baking together for Christmas. I love and enjoy cooking but baking is my favorite. I guess in my Italian family, I must have inherited the “baking gene.” I have learned so much from watching my mother and grandmothers when I was growing up. We had this wooden board, which we think was my great-grandmother’s. When the board was placed on the table, I felt like I was transported back in time, and I could see my great-grandmother Sofia rolling out the dough on her board. I have since inherited “the board” which I use to create my own traditions. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, she died when I was too little to remember, but I know that my sweet great-grandmother is right next to me and watching.
Grandma Julia, Great Grandmother Sofia,
and my Mom (1950)

Struffoli, is very popular in Italian households and are found on many dessert tables for Christmas Eve. You will find a number of variations on this recipe. I remember very well seeing towers of these little fried dough balls that taste like tiny pillows of celestial bliss in my mother’s kitchen. I would love to sprinkle the confetti all over the molded balls that were shaped like a Christmas trees and covered with dripping honey. Trust me, when you start eating them you can’t stop. I hope that you try these scrumptious sweet balls and make your own memories. Remember, don’t forget to come back tomorrow for “The 2nd Day of Christmas.”

Courtesy of “Sicilian Culture”

2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (plus a little more for work surface)
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of vegetable oil for frying
1 cup of honey
Rainbow confetti sprinkles

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and salt to the well and knead until smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll the dough out on lightly floured board until 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch strips, and then cut the strips into tiny pieces 1/2 inches long. Shape these tiny pieces into balls. Heat oil to 350 ° F. Drop carefully into the oil a few at a time. Cook until lightly golden, turning them constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove balls and drain them on paper towels.

Put honey in a saucepan and heat on low for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add fried balls, 1 cup at a time, and coat in honey stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove and put the balls on a flat plate to cool. You can shape into a tree and then add your sprinkles or confetti. (A trick if you want to mold the coated honey balls into a wreath or tree shape, wet your hand slightly and that will help you mold the Struffoli easier. Your hands will not stick to the honey.)

 Till Next Time…..

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