Struffoli are little fried dough balls that are topped with honey and sprinkles. The warm honey makes them sticky so they can be arranged into the shape of a Christmas tree and then decorated with the colorful, festive sprinkles. If you live anywhere near an Italian bakery, you've seen these goodies. They are usually tall and wrapped in colored cellophane with a bow. They make a great centerpiece on the table. Tradition says that you can leave the Struffoli out, uncovered, and they will last for weeks…or as long as it takes to eat them all. They taste even better the next day. Of course, to make my own vegan Struffoli, I had to make a couple of substitutions. First, the honey, I was going to just use agave nectar but then I ordered a bottle of Bee Free Honee which is made from apples. It’s delicious. It tastes better than honey with the notes of apple. Yum! Then I got to making the Struffoli.
Struffoli: Fried ‘Honey’ Balls [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
- 2 Tbs. flaxseed + 6 Tbs. warm water
- ¾ cup soymilk
- ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1 Tbs. vegan butter, melted
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting OR
- 2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour OR
- 4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Zest of ½ an orange
- 4 cups vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cups agave or vegan honey
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- ¼ cup vegan sprinkles
- Mix the flaxseed with the warm water in a small bowl or cup and let sit for 10 minutes until it is thickened and gelatinous. Mix the flax gel, soy milk, apple sauce, melted butter and vanilla together in a small bowl.
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon and zest. Make a well by pushing the flour mix to the sides of the bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry in the well. Work the flour into the well and mix well until you have a dough that is smooth and evenly blended. Gather it into a ball and transfer the dough onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 4 minutes, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour.
- After the hour, remove the dough from the plastic wrap. Pull a plum size piece of dough from the main dough. Roll the piece into a ball and then roll the ball into a long, thin rod, approximately ¼ inch thick. Cut the long rod into small pieces about ¾ of an inch . Roll the small pieces into balls. Repeat until you have used all the dough. Dust the balls with flour.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot until it reaches 350 degrees or until bubbles form around an inserted wooden spoon. Add the balls using a spider, about 10 at a time, shaking off any excess flour, and let fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oil and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
- In a large pot, heat the vegan honey or agave, sugar and water together over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. It will foam; it’s supposed to. Let cook about 7 minutes until it thickens a bit and the color darkens. Don’t cook it longer than this or it will turn into caramel. Have a small bowl of cool water nearby.
- Remove the honey mixture from the heat and add the balls immediately. Mix until the balls are covered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the honey balls to a serving platter. Dip your hands into the cool water before touching the balls because they are really, really hot. Arrange the balls in a pile to resemble a tree. Add sprinkles by…well, sprinkling them over the balls. Serve.