This Neapolitan Classic is a holiday favourite. Struffoli are little fried dumplings covered in honey, hazel nuts and festive sprinkles. They’re a typically Neapolitan sweet, also found all over southern Italy, and generally made around Christmas and New Year. In Naples, their texture will be crunchy. In some places and especially among the descendants of Italian immigrants and the Italian diaspora, they’re soft.
Struffoli are easy to make, but they take a bit of time. Making them vegan and air frying them is no more complicated or time consuming than non-vegan ones and they taste just as delicious and moreish.
This recipe will yield crunchy struffoli. They can also be baked or fried in plenty of hot oil. Up to you!
For the dough
- 250g Type 00 or pastry flour
- 45g sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 60g butter (the Naturli block is great) or coconut oil
- zest of one orange
- zest of one lemon
- 3 vegan eggs (3 Tablespoons flax meal whisked with 9 Tablespoons water, then refrigerate for a minimum of 15 minutes and up to an hour) or use 9 Tablespoons aquafaba
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (whisked into the flax eggs before you refrigerate them or aquafaba)
- 2 Tablespoon anise liqueur (eg. Strega) or amaretto
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the struffoli, once cooked
- 100g hazel nuts or almonds, roasted
- 120g vegan honey*
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- festive sprinkles* (optional)
- glace cherries (optional)
Begin by roasting the almonds or hazelnuts in an oven set at 190C. Timing will vary, but it should take between 10 and 15 minutes for the nuts to toast. Once done, take them out of the oven to cool
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and zests. Cut the butter into small chunks and work it into the flour mixture until completely absorbed.
Dissolve the turmeric into the flax egg or aquafaba.
Combine the rest of the ingredients to make a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently.
Place back into mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
When the 20 minutes are up, take the dough, slice it into five roughly portions of equal thickness. Shape each portion into a sausage and then roll out, using your hands and fingers, into long “strings” approximately 1cm in diameter.
Cut small pieces from the dough “string” and roll them between your palms, shaping them into a small, marble-sized dumpling. Place the dumplings into a plate and don’t crowd them.
If you’re using an air fryer, you will need to cook the dumplings in batches. It’s likely you’ll need to do this as well if you’re frying them. Fry with a good quality vegetable or peanut oil. If you’re baking them, pre-heat the oven to 190C and spread on a silicone mat or lightly greased baking parchment. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.
Set the air fryer to 190C and 10 minutes. When the air fryer is ready, place the dumplings in the tray. You’ll need to quickly toss each one into the tray individually so they don’t stick together.
Five minutes into the cooking, open the tray and pull apart any dumplings stuck together and shake the tray.
Once finished cooking, place on a cooling rack, and go onto the next batch.
Once the dumplings have cooled, place them in a large bow along with the nuts and mix.
The honey glaze
Place the vegan honey in a shallow saucepan along with the tablespoon of lemon juice. Heat on medium heat for one to two minutes until the honey is runny. Then pour it onto the dumplings and gently mix with a silicone spatula.
Mix the sprinkles and place cherries (quantities as you like) with the struffoli, nuts and honey and once again gently mix with a spatula.
Assembling the struffoli
A lovely presentation is to assemble the struffoli on a plate in a ring with a hollow middle. To do that, place a glass in the middle of a large serving dish and tip out the struffoli around the glass, ensuring you even out the quantities all around the ring.
Leave to set overnight. Remove the glass once they’re set. Serves at least six.
The struffoli will keep for several days… if you don’t pick one off each time you walk by. To store, gently cover them with a cake box lid, cling film or a reusable food storage wrap and use toothpicks to prevent the struffoli from sticking.
*Vegan sprinkles: Baking Time Club
Like us, animals aren’t things. They feel, think, dream, play, have friends and family. These shared qualities are the basis for why we should be vegan – Think Like a Vegan: What everyone can learn from vegan ethics, Emilia A. Leese & Eva J. Charalambides