This Little Shiksa Made Struffoli
I have a new hat. It is prominent, synthetic and furry. Last week when I ventured to Ravello for a concert I felt rather chilled so I bought this arguably monstrous chapeau. It has the overall effect of making me look like a cross between Anna Karenina and the Baal Shem Tov. There are a few reasons I like to wear this cap.
First, my hair remains steadfastly unruly unless I have a team of trained homosexuals to mold it into something resembling a civilized mane. Recently my husband Peppe pointed out to me that I had a nido di topolino in my hair. So that’s how you say rat’s nest in Italian I realized at the time with mild horror. In fairness to me, the direct translation would be little mouse’s nest. I am not sure if that does anything to improve my case though.
I also have found that if I wear this faux chapeau perched high on my head it does wonders towards slendering my face. It doesn’t matter that I look like a deranged shiksa Hasid, as long as I look skinny! Recently, I have learned that this hat both confuses and delights Neapolitans, particularly those in the transportation ticket sales and tearing business (yes, it would appear that there is a sizable class of Neapolitan men whose entire careers consist of ripping ticket stubs as you board ferries, busses and planes). My crazy hat must seem exotic to these old men because they often ask about it.
“Oh, are you from Moskowa?” they inquire with a mildly offensive Easter European by way of Forcella accent.
“Are you going ice skating?”
My favorite, “You look like Vladimir Lenin!”
“Well, top of the morning to you too, comrade. I was just on my way to the Politburo,” I say.
What I fail to tell these curious gents is that I bought this hat at Piazza Italia, a decidedly cheap Italian retailer. In all likelihood, the hat was made in a Chinese factory. I suppose that lends just a little bit of credence to the whole Marxist-Leninist vibe. Peppe said it made me look like Yentl, although even this caused some linguistic confusion because he pronounced it lentil.
After deducing that I did not look like a legume so much as a transvestite Barbara Streisand, I explained 500 years of Eastern European Jewish history to my Neapolitan husband. He nodded his head and asked if I would make struffoli, a Neapolitan Christmas dessert. And I did. To further these lessons in diversity, I also played Hava Negila while I made it….the Harry Belafonte version.
So it looks like we will be having a very successful interfaith, communist Christmas in Naples this year after all. And there will be struffoli.
Serves 6 as a dolce
60 grams unsalted butter
40 grams sugar
400 grams flour
Zest from one orange
1 teaspoon salt
3 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
15 grams anisette
Peanut oil for frying
175 grams honey
Colored sprinkles, dragée or any other decoration you like
Melt butter and cool
In the meantime mix sugar, flour, orange zest, salt, eggs and egg yolk and cooled melted butter
Bring together to form a large dough ball
With a pastry cutter slice ball into ¼” thick discs, roll into a rope and then cut into little ¼” balls
Heat oil to 365 degrees over medium heat in a heavy bottom saucepan or Dutch oven
Using a slotted spoon, lower the struffoli dough balls into oil and fry until golden, about 2-3 minutes
Remove struffoli in batches and place on a paper towel lined plate
When you finish frying all struffoli balls, melt honey over medium heat
Mix honey and dough balls in a large bowl
Place a glass in the middle of a circular platter or cake dish and arrange struffoli in mound around glass
Remove glass and sprinkle fruits, sprinkles and candies over struffoli
Enjoy on Christmas Day!