Turdilli are a Christmas treat in our house. From my Calabrese side, they are indicative of the recipes from harder times – using what they had in the house for sweetness and flavour. In this case ,wine, coffee and honey for example. My grandparents would make these every Christmas, using a woven tool from their home town, a chestillu (I’m guessing here on spelling) to roll out the texture into the turdilli. It makes the same groves you would find on gnocchi and, in fact, that was the other thing we used a chestillu for. The end result is a sweet and savoury cookie (for lack of a better description) that is crispy fried on the outside, soft in the middle and coated in honey.
These days you can find turdilli recipes a few places on the web (including this one from chef Michael Chiarello on the Food Network), yet no two are the same. Here’s the one from my family. Measurements are as close as we can get given its an old Italian recipe!
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup red wine
3/4 cup of chopped raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup liquer (tia maria, rum, brandy or anisette)
grated peel of one orange
juice of one orange
1 cup espresso coffee
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons cinamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 eggs
flour (enough to make pizza dough consistency)
Dough: Add 1 cup of warm water with 1 tsp of sugar and 2 tablespoons of yeast stirred in. Let rise. In a pot, bring the wine and oil together to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the raisins. Let this cool slightly. Then, add all other ingredients, except the flour. Once all the other ingredients are mixed in well, add the flour in one cup at a time until you get a dough consistency that is soft and very slightly sticky. Shape the dough into a ball, and place in a bowl Let rise in a bowl, covered with a towel, for three to four hours.
Once the dough is ready, prepare a wooden board, and your hands with plenty of flour. Cut off sections of the dough and roll out to approximately 1 inch in diameter, using flour generously to avoid the dough sticking.
Once the dough is rolled out, cut the log into 1 to 1 and half inch size pieces. Sprinkle with flour generously. The turdilli now need to be rolled to add groves (this helps hold the honey later on). You can do this using a chestillu if you have one. Otherwise, a regular gnocchi board may do, or if you are especially talented, a fork. Here’s what it looks like to use a chestillu:
Once the turdilli are rolled out, it is important to get them into the fryer soon. The turdilli will continue to rise and if they rise too much, can come out large and loose their grooves. Fry the turdilli in vegetable oil, keeping the heat on medium-high. If they brown on the outside too soon, you risk an uncooked, doughy middle. Fry until a golden brown, being sure to turn the trudilli in the oil. Do not over crowd the pot. Once fried, transfer to a colander for draining and cooling.
After the turdilli have cooled, you can add the honey. Warm honey in a large frying pan, using about one cup of light honey, 2 tablespoons of amber honey and a splash of water to get the boil going. Once honey is bubbling, add turdilli and toss.