Christmas desserts: a sweet tradition of Campania Region

In Campania and in the Amalfi Coast there are many traditional sweets typical of Christmas holidays: zeppole, struffoli e roccocò start to be prepared at the beginning of Advent and are present in Campania houses until 6 January, the day of the Epiphany.
Their fragrance, together with the sound of the bagpipes (traditional popular musical instrument of Christmas time), the steam on the glasses of the kitchen, the flashing lights of the Christmas tree and the enveloping smell of food characterize every home and remind of the charm of traditions and old times against the changes.

The zeppole are typical of the Sorrentine Coast. They are fried donuts prepared with flour, water, milk and anise, and seasoned with honey, colored comfits and orange zest. According to tradition the zeppole have not to be seen or smelt while preparing otherwise they don’t fry well: doors and windows are then closed so that the inviting smell, cannot leave the house. In the past, that one of zeppolara was a typical craft of women that fried these donuts on the road and served them with honey.

The struffoli have a Greek origin. They are small traditional fritters of spherical shape made with flour and eggs, covered with honey and colored comfits. In the past they were arranged in beautiful packages by the nuns of the convents of Campania. But today there is no house where grandmothers don’t prepare them. A small curiosity, in Greek cuisine, there is still a similar sweet, the Loukoumades, made with flour, eggs, sugar, nutmeg and seasoned with honey flavored with lemon and cinnamon.

The almond sweets come from Neapolitan monasteries, have delicate pastel shades ranging from pink to green to yellow and are prepared with few almond paste placed on a host of different shapes. Sweets of Christmas Eve, were considered a light sweet, since they were kneaded with flour, sugar, spices and ground almonds with no animal fat, as their seasoning is obtained exclusively by the oil which is into the same almonds.

The mustacciuoli are rhombus-shaped sweets, covered with chocolate icing. There are two versions about the origin of their name: the first one wants them to be related to some ancient traditions which employed the must in preparation, the other refers to mustacchi, thick moustache in fashion during last century, because due to their shape they remember moustache. They are filled with honey and candied fruit.

In the shape of an ‘S’, the sosamielli were kneaded with honey. They were served on 25 December morning. In ancient times they were separated in noble sosamiello, prepared with the white flour and offered to noble people, the poor sosamiello, mixed with flour and waste elements, that was offered to the service people and the journey sosamiello padded with the sour black cherry jam that was offered to religious people.

The roccocò is a donut-shaped sweet with a scent of citrus fruit. It is a particularly hard biscuit that can be softened by dunking it in vermouth, in sparkling wine or in white wine.