Though called something different in every family, these are classic Italian Christmas pastries. Of course, they're a delicious treat all year round.
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 pinch iodized salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup shortening
6 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup port wine
4 cups vegetable or corn oil
4 cups honey
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening, then add the eggs and wine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the egg mixture. Mix by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook at medium speed until the dough forms into a ball. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean towel and allow to rest for at least 1 hour (no longer than 3 hours) in the refrigerator.
Pull off pieces of the dough in portions equal to about 2 tablespoons. Roll into little ovals using your hands. Continue until all the dough is used up.
Heat the oil to medium-high temperature in a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet. Fry each ball until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Heat the honey to medium temperature in a saucepan. Dip each ball in the honey, carefully shaking off excess, and place on wax paper. Serve slightly warm, but be sure honey has cooled enough not to burn the mouth.
Italian cuisine is not really known for its sweet dishes. Most sweet dishes are tied to holy days, feasts, weddings, and other celebrations. Pastries, gelato (ice cream), and biscotti are the most common types of Italian desserts.