In this week’s Martin & Sylvia: More Adventures! story, "A Night for Stories", Martin is frustrated with how the days get so short at this time of year. Daddy tells brother and sister about how it is considered the storytelling time of year, and suggests that they spend the evening together telling stories.
Like Daddy, I love all of the seasonal stories that families tell as the calendar is bombarded with holidays of light and love at the end of the year. One of my newly discovered favorites is the tale of Old Befana.
Old Befana is an Italian story. Befana is an old, grouchy woman whose only mission in life is continually sweeping her house until it’s impeccably clean. When the biblical wise men come by asking for directions to the baby Jesus, Befana has no time to chat and sends them on their way.
But then she sees the Christmas star in the sky and has a change of heart. She packs a basket full of baked goods—a gift for the child—and her faithful broom—to help the new mother clean—and sets off after the wise men. Unfortunately, Befana is too late, but she rides her broom through the air and gives each child she meets a treat, just in case he or she is the baby she’s looking for.
While Befana traditionally leaves her gifts on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6th, these struffoli—a kind of Italian donut—make a special, sweet breakfast on any cold winter morning.
1 3/4 cup flour (plus a little extra for flouring a cutting board)
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 orange (zest and juice)
1 teaspoon lemoncello, Grand Marnier, or vanilla (use what you have on hand)
pinch of salt
oil for frying
1 cup honey
powdered sugar or sprinkles
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, eggs, citrus zest, lemoncello, and salt to make a stiff dough. Allow the mixer to run until the dough becomes too stiff (just a minute or two), then turn the dough onto a floured cutting board and knead by hand for a few more minutes. Wrap the dough and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Find a skillet or dutch oven with high sides, and fill it with 2-3 inches of frying oil. Being careful to keep kids and pets a safe distance away, heat the oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You will probably have to continually adjust the heat to keep the oil close to that temperature.
As the oil is heating, roll the dough into tiny balls, each about the size of a quarter. Working in batches, fry the balls until they’re golden brown on all sides, and remove them to a draining rack or paper towel lined plate while you finish frying the rest.
When all of the struffoli are cooked, add the honey and citrus juice to a large sauce pan. Heat gently until the honey is quite thin, then turn off the heat. Add the struffoli and stir gently to coat. Arrange the struffoli on a tray—a pyramid is a traditional shape—and dust with powdered sugar or sprinkles.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.