Making cicerchiata at the beginning of every year is a tradition in my family. My maternal grandmother, Nonna Liliana, made it every year without fail and every year we looked forward to it with the same amount of excitement and anticipation. It's also known as strufoli, but to me, it will always be cicerchiata, which, loosely translated means "ring of garbanzo beans". But garbanzo beans have nothing to do with this sticky, crunchy, honey-drenched dessert. It's called cicerchiata only because the fried dough balls look very similar to garbanzo beans, but that is where the similarities end.
Last year, my Nonna Liliana passed away, so to remember her and honor our family tradition, I made my very first cicerchiata, and was so thrilled when it turned out just like hers. It brought back so many memories of watching her make it, getting to help cut the long strands of dough, and eating it with her and my family. It's a labor of love to make this, but keeping a tradition alive always takes effort and is always worth the hard work. I think that my Nonna would be proud.
I would also like to use this first post to welcome you to my blog. I've been toying with the idea of writing my own food blog for a several months, and to be honest, the idea initially intimidated me, so I kept putting it off. But I quickly discovered that the food blogging community is a friendly and encouraging one, and I am now excited to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to sharing my love for food and cooking with you. Thanks for joining me!
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil plus 3 cups for frying
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup honey
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup candied fruits (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add in the flour and mix well to form a manageable dough. The dough should not be too sticky that you cannot release it from your hands; rather, it should be smooth and soft in texture. You may need to knead it a few times to make sure all the flour is properly incorporated. Do not over-knead the dough.
Place the dough under a bowl large enough to cover it and let it rest for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, sprinkle some flour on a cookie sheet and set aside. Using a large cutting board, take small bits of dough and roll the dough into long rolls, about the diameter of a pencil. Cut the long roll into small pieces, about the size of a pea. Place the cut pieces of dough on the floured cookie sheet and lightly toss them in the flour to make sure they do not stick to the cookie sheet or each other. Keep the cookie sheet covered with a kitchen towel to prevent the dough balls from drying out. Repeat this process until you have cut all of the dough into small pieces.
When you are ready to fry the dough balls, preheat 3 cups vegetable or canola oil in a large, sturdy pot or Dutch oven. Fry the dough balls in batches until they are golden brown and have puffed up in size, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on a cookie sheet lined with several layers of paper towels.
Have a large round serving plate ready and run it under some cold water, leaving it wet.
In another large pot or Dutch oven that can accommodate all the fried dough balls, warm the honey over medium-low heat. It will become more liquid in consistency as it heats. Turn off the heat and pour in all the dough balls, the nuts and candied fruits (if using), and mix everything well to make sure the honey coats everything evenly. You will need to work quickly to make sure that the honey does not start to set.
Pour the mixture onto the wet serving plate and with your hands, shape the mixture into a ring. If the mixture is still too warm to the touch, you can use a couple of spatulas moistened with water to help you form the ring. Wipe the edges of the serving plate with a wet paper towel to remove any honey. Some honey may end up pooling in the center of the ring, but that is fine (just use it for dipping!). Cool completely before serving. Use a serrated knife to cut slices, or you can do what I did and just pull off chunks. Store at room temperature, covered with foil, away from heat.
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