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Struffoli Fried "Honey" Balls – Regular and Gluten-Free

This could be proof the world is going to end – I’m posting 2 dessert recipes in a row!! Something is definitely up with the universe. But it’s Christmastime and I’ve been thinking about this treat that my mother always made for the holidays.

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 struffoli, I had to make a couple of substitutions. First, the honey. Since honey is not vegan, 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!
Second, I needed vegan and naturally made sprinkles. Sprinkelz makes organic, vegan, gluten-free sprinkles that are colored with vegetable juices and spices. I ordered some from Pangea. Sadly, they only had the least festive color but at least they weren’t made with artificial colors or bugs. You can also order them from Edward and Sons.
Then we (I enlisted Tom to help) got to making the struffoli. At first I made a batch with all-purpose flour but I couldn’t leave my gluten-free Veeps out so I made a second batch with the ONLY gluten-free flour mix I use: Jennifer’s Way. The gluten-free version tastes even better! – maybe because the flours are hearty, protein-filled flours rather than the plain white stuff. The gluten-free struffoli also look prettier and are more tender inside.

Gluten-Free Struffoli

The little fried dough balls were crispy on the outside and light on the inside. They don’t have much flavor on their own; the flavor comes mostly from the sweet topping. I was even tempted to steal a few balls and add garlic and make croutons but I stayed true to my mission.

With the Bee Free Honee and the sprinkles, my Struffoli were a very sweet treat. Tom has been steadily working his way through the pile (I was sugared out after 3 of them although they taste less sweet the next day). Seeing the dish of struffoli on the table brought back warm and sweet memories. I hope they do for you as well. Enjoy!
Struffoli Fried “Honey” Balls
Wet Ingredients
2 Tbs. flaxseed + 6 Tbs. warm water
¾ cup soymilk
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 Tbs. vegan butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting OR
2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour OR
4 cups Jennifer’s Way 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 such as “Bee Free Honee”

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup water

¼ cup vegan sprinkles (1 1/2 boxes of Sprinkelz)

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.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.


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6 Responses to Struffoli Fried "Honey" Balls – Regular and Gluten-Free

  1. Robynlyn December 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    Probably just ignorance on my part, but how does harvesting honey from bees hurt or harm them? Thanks!

    • Rhea January 1, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      Hi Robynlyn, bees make honey for themselves. It is not ours to take. When beekeepers take their honey, they usually replace it with sugar water that does not have the nutrients the honey has. Keeping bees to make money from their honey is exploitation and enslavement of the bees. It violates their right to live freely and in peace by making them commodities that are bred, bought and sold. Some bees are also killed if they are smoked out of their hives. But even if no bees were physically harmed, vegans do not believe in using animals for the purpose of taking what is theirs. Hope that helps. xoxo

      • Robynlyn January 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

        Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate your passion for your life style. I will be taking sometime to think about your answer and how it will effect my use of honey in my life in the future.
        God Bless.

        • Rhea January 13, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

          My pleasure xoxo

  2. michellini December 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    looks amazin


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