Pignolata - Stufoli

Pignulata - Pignuccata

 

 

The pignolata is a dessert only made in the southern part of Italy. The exception is Ferrara, a city in northern Italy, where a dessert called pignuccata is a pine nut crunch made with caramelized sugar and pine nuts.
In the south of the peninsula, the pignuccata are small ball shaped sweets, fried and covered with a glaze.


 

 

They are called stufoli in the Neapolitan region and further south they are called stuffoli or pignolata   Calabrese. The pignolata is one of the most popular southern Italian sweets made for Christmas.
Whereas the appearance is similar, the pastry varies in consistency and also the glaze that covers the pignolata is different according to the region or area in which it’s made in.
In some places the coating is made with honey and with the aromatic and sweet-smelling rose water, or with honey mixed with a sugar syrup and flavored with lemon or orange zest and cinnamon.

In Sicily this dessert was made for Carnevale, the last celebration before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but now it is also made for Christmas.
The classic pignulata   is made in the province of Messina and is served covered with a white lemony coating and with chocolate glazing. 
The pastry is crispy, the white glaze has a notable aroma produced by the lemon’s zest and sweet-sour taste created by the combination of lemon’s juice and confectionary sugar, in contrast with the pungent smell of the cinnamon and the bitter-sweet taste of the chocolate glaze made with cocoa and sugar.
In other parts of Sicily the pignulata is characterized by the crunchy pasty that stays fresh because sugar and lard or butter is added to the dough. 
The glazing is usually made with orange blossom honey sometimes mixed with sugar and the zest of orange.
The pignolata   is finished with a dust of grounded cinnamon.

 

Sicilian Style Pignolata


   
Ingredients

 

For The Dough
3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoons sugar 
4 tablespoons salted butter (½ stick) soft at room temperature
2 large eggs
¼ cup of Marsala or 2 tablespoons of a liquor (cognac, vodka, etc.)  
Flour for dusting

For frying
Canola or corn oil for frying

For the Icing
½ lb orange blossom honey 
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of sugar
Grounded cinnamon

 

Preparation

  • The Dough

Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well or use a bowl. Mix into the well the butter and the sugar than break the eggs, beat with a fork and add the Marsala. Start to blend the flour from the inside of the well, and keep incorporating the flour; add a few drops of water if needed, to moisten the flour.
Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball with the dough. Fold and press with the palm of your hands; if dough is sticky, add some more flour. When dough forms a single mass, set aside. Clean your hand and working surface and discard scraps.
Dust working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly to the center, turn dough 90 degrees and press down again: keep kneading until dough is elastic, and has a silky consistency. Knead for 4-5 minutes. Cover and rest dough for 20/30 minutes.
Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out each piece of dough with a rolling pin to ½ inch thick.
Cut into strips about ½ inch. Roll and stretch each strip in the form of a breadstick about ¼ inch thick and cut into ¼ inch, to form small balls.

  • The Frying

Heat a heavy duty pan with the oil at least 1 inch deep. When oil reaches about 375 degrees, start to fry the balls. When thepignolata is golden (not brown) the on all sides, transfer the little pastries to drain into a dish covered with paper towels.

   

 

  • The Finishing

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, zest of orange and 1 cup of water.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. 
In a large saucepan warm up the honey and add the sugar syrup. Mix it well.
Add the strufoli   and using a wooden spoon turn until they are well coated with the honey and syrup mixture.
Place the little balls in a serving dish piling up in the shape of a pine cone and dust it with grounded cinnamon.
The pine cone in Sicilian is called pignu   hence the name pignulata.

              Pignulata Messina Style

 

                                     Ingredients

  • For The Dough
    10 cups cake flour
    ½ cup of 80 proof alcohol (use 80 proof vodka or cognac)
    4 tablespoons salted butter (½ stick) soft at room temperature
    10 egg yolks 
    Flour for dusting
  • For the frying 
    Canola or corn oil for frying
  • For the lemon icing
    1 lb. confectionary sugar
    Juice of 5 lemons
    Zest of 5 lemons
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar for dusting
  • For the chocolate icing
    2 cups granulated sugar
    12 oz. baking bitter cocoa
    1 cup of water
    3 drops of vanilla 
    ½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon for dusting

 

Preparation

  • The Dough

Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well or use a bowl. Mix into the well the butter, and the eggs, beat with a fork and add the alcohol. Start to blend the flour from the inside of the well, and keep incorporating the flour; add a few drops of water if needed, to moisten the flour.
Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball with the dough. Fold and press with the palm of your hands; dough mixture should be soft. When dough forms a single mass, set aside. Clean your hand and working surface and discard scraps.
Dust working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly to the center, turn dough 90 degrees and press down again: keep kneading for 2-3 minutes. Cover to rest dough and keep refrigerated for 20/30 minutes.
Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll out each piece of dough with rolling pin to ½ inch thick.
Cut in strips about ½ inch. Roll and stretch each strip in the form of a breadstick about ¼ inch thick and cut into ¼ inch, to form small balls.

  • The Frying

Heat a heavy duty pan with the oil at least 1 inch deep. When oil reaches about 375 degrees, start to fry the balls. When thepignolata is golden (not brown) the on all sides, transfer the little pastries to drain into a dish covered with paper towels.

  • The Lemon Icing

In a medium saucepan place the confectionary sugar, add some lemon juice and using a wooden spoon turn. Add remaining juice a little at a time and mix vigorously until smooth. If the icing is too thick add a few drops of water and lastly add the lemon zest.

  • The Chocolate Icing

In a small saucepan mix the sugar and cocoa. Add 1 cup of water, and mix until smooth.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Do not over boil. Remove and set on side.

The Pignulata

Warm up the lemon icing in a large saucepan. Mix it well.
Add the one half of the pignolata   and using a wooden spoon turn until they are well coated with the syrupy mixture.
Place the little balls in a serving dish piling up in the shape of a pine cone, dust with the granulated sugar.

To make the chocolate pignolata, warm up the chocolate icing in a large saucepan. Add the other half of the pignolata   and using a wooden spoon turn until they are well coated with the syrupy mixture.
Place the little balls in a serving dish piling up in the shape of a pine cone, dust with the granulated sugar.

Thepignulata Messinese is also served in a largevassoio, serving dish, piling up the lemon balls on one side and the chocolate pignulata on the other side.