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
Canola or corn oil for frying
For the Icing
½ lb orange blossom honey
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of sugar
How to make the Pignolata:
Confection of sweet fried dumplings (sometimes chocolate coated) shaped in a mound or cone held together by caramelized sugar with liqueur.
Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well or use a bowl. Mix into the well the butter and the sugar then 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 the dough is sticky, add some more flour. When the dough forms a single mass, set aside. Clean your hand and working surface and discard scraps.
Dust working surface with flour and knead the dough by pushing it down firmly to the center, turn dough 90 degrees and press down again: keep kneading until the 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.
Heat a heavy-duty pan with the oil at least 1 inch deep. When the oil reaches about 375 degrees, start to fry the balls. When the pignolata is golden (not brown) on all sides, transfer the little pastries to drain into a dish covered with paper towels.
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 use a wooden spoon and 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.
Regional recipe from Sicily