Arm in a Santa suite grabbing a dough ball from a pile of struffoli.
Photography, Art Direction & Food Styling: Anthony Contrino

I remember the days when you could only get Peeps for Easter. Now they’re available year-round. While I sometimes appreciate the fact that I can have them whenever the mood strikes, they’re somewhat less enjoyable since they are so available.  It makes me appreciate those once-a-year goodies, like this Christmas Eve dessert. I’m not going to lie – this recipe requires a bit of patience.  It will feel like you’ve rolled out a million balls of dough by the time you’re done, but get some friends and family involved, and things will move faster.  

A lot of the struffoli I’ve had just haven’t been good.  They are often on the hard side and drenched in syrup. My version is a bit more cakey – okay, VERY cakey, and slightly less sweet, and they are DAMN GOOD.


Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12



  • 1 ½ cups honey
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Rainbow nonpareils, for garnish


  • MAKE THE HONEY GLAZE. In a small saucepan, stir the honey, sugar, orange juice and salt to combine.
  • Cook, over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved; do not bring to a boil.
  • Keep warm until ready to use.
  • MAKE THE DOUGH BALLS. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.
  • In another large bowl, cream the butter, sugar and zest using a hand mixer.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next.
  • Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  • Add the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together; do not overmix.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a high-sided skillet, heat a couple inches of oil to 350 degrees.
  • Using a bench scraper, cut off ½” pieces of the dough.
  • Roll the dough into a rope slightly thicker than a ¼” in width.
  • Using the bench scraper, cut the rope into ¼” pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a ball; they do not need to be perfect and should be approximately the size of a hazelnut. Repeat until all the dough has been shaped.
  • Working in small batches, carefully add the dough balls to the oil and fry until lightly golden brown, for about 45 to 60 seconds.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the struffoli to a paper towel-line sheet pan to drain excess oil.
  • Transfer the struffoli to a large bowl.
  • Drizzle all but a few tablespoons of the warm Honey Glaze over the balls, and gently stir to coat.
  • Place the balls onto a serving plate, drizzle the remaining glaze over the top and decorate with the nonpareils.


These are best served the day they are made; however, you can fry the balls, cool and wrap well in plastic wrap. Make and coat with the Honey Glaze the day you are serving.
Course: Dessert
Author: Anthony Michael Contrino