If you grew up in a Sicilian or Italian household or ever went to one at this time of year you may remember having Pinulata.
This is an Italian holiday treat that you can make ahead and leave in serving dishes around your house. Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan of Gloucester makes them, based on her grandmother Felicia's recipe, as little bites of fried dough slathered in a honey-corn syrup mixture topped with bits of chocolate, toasted nuts and fresh cinnamon.
There is a difference in how the name of this dessert is spelled, divided by geography; in Italy it is pignolata and here in the United States it is pinulata. The way it is made, however, and the enjoyment that people feel every holiday season is very similar.
In Italy, it seems that pignolata were originally made for Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday), to splurge before Lent, but have now become a Christmas treat as well. Some say that they are named after what they resemble, large pine nuts.
For the Dough
1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature (Leave eggs on counter overnight.)
4 to 5 cups durum wheat flour
La Spinola oil (vegetable oil with 1 percent olive oil)
1. Place the flour on a clean work surface and make a well in center of flour. Add eggs one at a time in center of well, picking up flour from edges with a fork, mix with fork until all eggs are incorporated with the flour. Place dough in oiled bowl.
2. Take pieces of the dough and roll into long logs. Cut three-eighth-inch pieces from the log.
3. Spray logs with cooking spray and scoop up cut pieces with pastry scraper, and place on oiled cookie sheet so the pinulata pieces won't stick.
4. Starting with cold oil in a tall pan, filling oil to half-way mark in pan, add hald of the pinulata pieces to pan. When pinulata floats to top of oil, continuously stir pieces, cook until they turn light golden brown with a slight pinkish tint. Remove from pan with slotted large spoon.
5. Place in doubled brown paper grocery bag to absorb oil. Repeat process till all pieces are cooked. Set bags aside.
For the icing
1 16-ounce jar white Karo syrup
1 16-ounce jar of honey
2 large bars of Hershey chocolate with almonds, chopped into chunks
1 small package of whole almonds, blanched in water and peeled and toasted in oven.
1 small package of walnuts, toasted in oven.
Fresh cinnamon sticks, finely ground to taste
1. Mix above ingredients together in a bowl. In another large bowl place all the pinulata pieces and coat with above mixture.
2. Place fixed pinulata in festive bowls, wetting your hands with water to mold into a high rounded pyramid shape. Sprinkle with jimmies.
Recipe courtesy of Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan, 2010.