07-12-24_pina.jpgThis will forever be a recipe that evokes my sweet, innocent childhood. I would be a youngster sitting at Aunt Rose’s long, crowded Christmas dinner table in the Bronx. There would be so many platters of pasta and vegetables and meats, I could never fit samplings of everything on my one dish. Then the desserts would do the same thing. I knew to expect the platter of “Pinnulata.” It’s probably one of my earliest food memories. I treasured the sticky fingers that would result from my pulling the finger-like, fried dough pieces from the mountain of glistening honey. The pieces seemed to giggle in a covering of colored sprinkles and toasted almonds.

These were handmade by my grandmother Carmela and we completely took them for granted. When she died in 1980, I had the clarity of mind to interview my Aunt Rose about the nuances of this recipe. And like a handmade pasta recipe, this one turns out to be more about “feel” than it does about measurable “ingredients.” Here’s what I do: prepare one pattie of dough for each small platter of Pinnulata that you want to have. You need to beat 2 eggs for each pattie, mixing in as much white all-purpose flour as necessary to make a hard dough. Knead it until smooth, then cut into patties (determined by the number of eggs used) and knead separately. Wet hands with vegetable oil and flatten the dough patties. Set them in a bowl, separated by wax paper, in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. Do not chill them for longer than this, or you will have dough bricks to deal with.

Remove one dough pattie from the refrigerator and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness with a rolling pin. Cover your flattened dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. You will cut a strip from it (about an inch or so wide), then roll this by hand on the board until you have a long thin “noodle.” The thinner it is, the better it is, because these will puff up when they fry. You want to keep slender strips, if possible. Cut your long noodle into 3-inch strips. Start piling these strips on a plate, again covered with plastic wrap.

To fry, add all the strips from one pattie to 2 inches of cold vegetable oil, then add the heat. Do not let them fry too brown. Keep the fried strips in a strainer. Let the oil cool before adding the strips of the next pattie.

After frying all the dough, add some organic orange zest and toasted almonds to enough honey to coat all the strips, in one big pot. I’ve surmised that 7 oz. of honey is a good amount for a single pattie of dough. Heat the honey (to thin it) and add the strips. When all are coated, pour the mixture onto plates sprinkled with cinnamon. Then, add candy sprinkles on top.

Your result with this recipe should always be the wide-eyed adulation of the children at your table. My own toddler has just enjoyed his first-ever taste. He’s determined that the sticky fingers are worth the bother.

RECIPE: a magical tradition that’ll never grow tiresome
PREP TIME:
a sensual experience of rolling and frying and honeying dough; allow an afternoon
TASTE:
orange-scented honey envelops simply fried dough sticks

For our next recipe, next time, let’s get back to the savory stuff. I want to cook “Fava Bean Cakes with Diced Red Peppers and Yogurt,” from the August 2002 issue of Vegetarian Times. Return to my site on Monday, December 31, to see my results.