These tiny Italian fritters make a delicious Chanukah treat! Precipizi is an old Jewish dessert made for Hanukkah that hails from Ancona, in Central Italy. The original recipe is parve
(dairy-free) and made with lots of mini fried doughnuts arranged in a single layer, glued together in a rectangular shape with honey, left to dry, then cut and served in chunks. After trying to make the dessert this way a few times but never quite succeeding, I created
my own version, as I love the idea and the name of this dessert. I make mine with doughnuts that are olive-sized or slightly bigger, and I like to serve them piled up as a pyramid instead, similar to struffoli, a Christmas dessert from Naples (after all, Hanukkah often falls around Christmastime). This dessert is a beautiful marriage of old Jewish traditions presented in a modern way and inspired by traditional Italian cooking.
I add ricotta and lemon to the dough for extra flavour, as well as to combine the tradition of frying on Hanukkah with the one of eating dairy (see page 52). This dessert can be eaten straight away, shortly after coating it with honey, or left to set, for a few hours, for
the doughnuts to absorb the honey. Both versions are delicious!
Photo: Inbal Bar-Oz
PREP - 15 minutes, plus 15–20 minutes resting time
COOK - 10 minutes
MAKES - one 20 x 15cm (8 x 6in) pyramid with about 70–80 mini doughnuts
180–200g (6–7oz/scant 1½ cups–scant 12⁄3 cups) plain white flour (ideally ‘00’ type)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
1 large egg, plus 1 yolk
20g (¾oz) unsalted butter, melted
50g (1¾oz/3 tablespoons) ricotta
pinch of sea salt
about 300ml (10fl oz/1¼ cups) sunflower, groundnut or corn oil, for frying
80g (2¾oz/6 tablespoons) runny honey
grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
icing sugar, for dusting
You will also need a tray or large plate, lined with baking parchment.
First, make the dough. Mix 180g (6oz/scant 1½ cups) of the flour with the sugar, lemon zest, egg, egg yolk, melted butter, ricotta and salt in a bowl with your hands (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook) for 4–5 minutes until the dough is soft and malleable but not sticky. If it’s too sticky, simply add more of the flour. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to rest for 15–20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it into four pieces. Gently roll each piece on a clean surface or on a pastry mat, using your fingers to form a thin rope about 20–25cm (8–10in) long and 1.5–2cm (½–¾in) thick, then cut each rope into small 1cm (½in) pieces about the size of a hazelnut and put them on the lined tray or plate. You should have a total of 70–80 pieces.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or frying pan to 170°C/335°F (if you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil is hot enough by dropping in a cube of bread: it should float rather than sink, and sizzle immediately on contact with the oil). Once it’s hot, add a batch of the dough balls – you need to cook them in two or three batches. They should sit in one layer in the oil. Fry for 1½–2 minutes, turning them often with a metal spoon so they fry evenly, until they turn lightly golden. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them in a sieve to drain the oil. Repeat with the remaining batches of dough and transfer each drained batch to a plate or tray lined with kitchen paper to help absorb any excess oil.
Warm up the honey, orange zest and orange blossom water in a large pan and add the fried dough pieces. Stir until all the dough is coated, then remove from the heat. Transfer with tongs or a spatula to a cake plate and create the shape of a pyramid. Leave to set (or serve straight away), dusting the mini doughnuts with icing sugar before serving.
From 'Jewish Flavours of Italy: A Family Cookbook' published by Green Bean Books 2022