By Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca
Silvia Colloca, with the help of her youngest son, Miro, prepares a traditional Italian cluster cake. Similar-sized pastry balls are deep-fried and coated in honey syrup.
– 3⅓ cups (500 g) plain flour
– 40 g butter, melted
– 40 g caster sugar
– 4 eggs
– Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
– Pinch of salt flakes
– 1 tbsp grappa or sambuca
– 1–2 tbsp water (optional)
– Light-scented olive oil or canola oil, for deep-frying
– 1½ cups (525 g) honey
Resting time 30 minutes
Cooling time 5 minutes
Setting time 3-4 hours
Place the flour, butter, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, salt and liqueur in a large bowl and mix well to form a firm dough. If it is too dry, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cover with plastic film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and shape it into ropes about 1.5 cm thick. Cut each rope into a square and roll it to resemble a chickpea.
Half fill a medium heavy-based saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium–high heat. Test it by dropping in a piece of dough: if it sizzles straight away and turns golden in 15 seconds, the oil is ready. Turn the flame down if you think your oil is too hot.
Add the balls in batches and cook for 2–3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a tray lined with paper towels.
When all of the balls are cooked, heat the honey in a medium saucepan until it thins to a pouring consistency. Add the fried balls to the honey and stir carefully until well coated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, stirring every so often.
Place an oiled glass or cup in the middle of a large serving platter, then mound the honeyed nuggets around the glass in the shape of a ring. Allow the honey to set and the cicerchiata to cluster nicely (about 3–4 hours), then remove the glass or cup to reveal the empty hole in the middle.
Serve as it is, or decorated with your choice of nuts, candied fruit or sprinkles.
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