Updated: Feb 4
This past Wednesday was the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and I wanted to do something special. 💦 It also means that we are 6 months away from Christmas! Usually I'm soaking in the sun and enjoying the Texas heat but let's be honest this year has been something for the books and being out and about is a social no-no so I'm ready for that feel good season! 🎄
The life long mission of St. John the Baptist was to always give Christ the glory and prepare people to do that as well. Repent + Believe in the Gospel! He wanted them to KNOW Jesus, the way that he knew his own cousin from inside Elizabeth’s womb. So he does this by baptizing people, washing them of their sins and preparing them to stand holy in the sight of Christ. Have you ever wondered why St. John the Baptist was baptizing people when that was not an official part of Judaism? Baptism was unofficially practiced by some Jewish people (including the Essenes) and was a sign of repentance that was often repeated. It is likely that this is what influenced St. John the Baptist's ministry given that he may have very well known this group. This custom is of course different than the one we follow as Jesus baptizes us not just "with water" but also"with the Holy Spirit". (Luke 3:26)
In Matthew 3:4 we learn that St. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness when he received his call as the forerunner for Christ. In that verse we see that his food was locusts and wild honey which is why it is our family tradition to incorporate honey into dinner or a treat. I know some might encourage a grasshopper challenge 🦗 but I just can’t do that! Instead, I did a couple of things this year, Italian Honey Clusters, also known as Struffoli, and Honey Basil Chicken Sliders which were so yummy. We highly recommend!
I call this recipe the weeknight version because it is not the traditional way of making Struffoli but a much simpler version for an evening treat. I apologize in advance but this one is not a picture by picture! I cut the recipe in half so if you are only serving a few people that is more than plenty.
Prep Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Servings: 2 dozen
3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
Oil for deep frying
Get a large glass mixing bowl and pour in your flour, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk that together and then add in your wet ingredients. Crack in your eggs and pour in the milk and anise extract. (Note: you can use crushed aniseed but I had extract on hand.) Stir until it is combined, the dough will be sticky!
Flour a clean counter space and turn your dough out kneading it until it is smooth and stretchy. I did this step for about 6 minutes! Then cover it in plastic wrap and let it stand for 1 hour.
In a sauce pan or frying dish pour in your oil and heat to 350 degrees. You can also heat your oven to 200 degrees and take out a heatproof bowl or small cake tin so that when you are done frying small batches you can keep them warm in the oven.
While the oil and oven are warming up come back and re flour your counter space so that you can divide the dough into six portions, remember I cut this in half so I only had three. Roll each portion into a 1/2 thick rope and cut it across in 1/2 inch pieces. Roll them into balls and in small batches (5-6 at a time) place them in the hot oil until golden brown (2-3 minutes at most). Take them out with a slotted spoon or frying spatula and drain them on a paper towel lined plate. Once they are drained of the oil put them in the cake tin to stay warm in the oven.
In a saucepan, combine the honey and sugar over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling remove the mixture and pour it over the dough pieces in your bowl or cake tin. Stir it around until all of the dough pieces are covered in honey goodness! Shake some sprinkles on top and pine nuts if that's what floats your boat.
As I was writing for the dough to set I read an article that highlighted an interesting fact to go along with the popular St. John the Baptist quote, "he must increase but I must decrease." (John 3:30) The feast of the nativity of John the Baptist occurs just days after the summer solstice when the days are actually getting shorter (decreasing) ⬇️. Christ’s nativity falls just after the winter solstice when the days are getting longer (increasing) ⬆️. What a humbling and difficult message for us, if we are to be like St. John the Baptist that means we must make way for Jesus into our own lives and the lives of others. We too must decrease so that Jesus can increase, placing less emphasis on ourselves and giving more worship to God. Proclaiming and praising Him as a church, not being afraid to speak out for truth, and building an intimate relationship with him as John did.
Hoping you enjoy this recipe just as much as we did!
Praying for you,