I was never very passionate about Carnival masks, I don’t know why, but I was definitely about Carnival sweets 😀 and in Italy there are tens and tens of Carnival sweets 🙂
In the various regions of Italy (but also in other countries) you can find this sweet under several different names: chiacchiere (literally “chit-chat”), frappe, cenci, bugie, sfrappole, crostoli, galani, lattughe, saltasù (“saltansö” or “haltanhö” in the local dialect, that’s in my area, Brescia, literally it means “jump up“) and others too 🙂
It seems its origins date back to the ancient Rome empire and then spread a bit all over Europe with similar recipes and different shapes (there were some similar fried sweets, fried in animal fat and prepared during about the period of the nowadays Carnival, during a feast at that time called “Saturnali”, and those sweets were called “frictilia“).
It’s very simple, but as always there are some details to take care if you want to obtain the best result 🙂
First of all a good chiacchiera has to be very thin and friable, it has literally to disappear in your mouth when you bite it…too often you can find on the market chiacchiere which are too thick and heavy.
Flour: an all purpose white flour is ok, people always used it and you will be able to make them in any case, but according to Iginio Massari (the most famous Italian pastry chef) if you can find a strong flour, with higher protein content, this will help the chiacchiere to inflate better while frying, in that way they will absorb less oil and they will be a bit lighter. I used 350 g of a flour with a strength code W330, and 150 g of a normal white flour.
Alcohol: in Italy we usually use some liquor in this recipe: often the grappa, some use the Marsala wine, others the white wine…since I’m in Hungary I used a plum palinka 🙂 and it was good. The liquor gives some little aroma (not always) and I read that it also helps to get a better color to the fry. In any case you will not feel the alcohol, it evaporates at 45 °C.
Oil: to obtain a crunchy fried sweet and not to absorb too much oil we need to fry at 175-180 °C, so choose an oil with a higher smoke point: in these cases I always use peanuts oil.
Thickness: I flattened the dough using the manual pasta machine, at the thinnest option. You can make it even thinner by passing on it with a rolling pin too.
It’s also important to riddle with some thin holes the flattened dough, otherwise your chiacchiere will risk to be one single huge bubble 🙂
Let’s see the recipe now!
INGREDIENTS (with these quantities I filled 4 big cake holders):
- 500 g white flour (better if with a high strength)
- 60 g butter
- 60 g sugar
- 3 big eggs
- salt, one teaspoon
- the zest of one lemon, not treated and finely grated
- 60 g of grappa (or similar)
- Take a large bowl, add the flour (sift it before), the soft butter, the sugar, the salt, the lemon zest, the eggs (which you have previously whisked) and the grappa, and start to mix all together until the liquids are absorbed.
- Then pour all the dough on the working table and work it until you obtain a smooth and homogeneous dough: it will take a while, possibly also up to 10 minutes of hard work 🙂 but it’s important to be smooth.
- Then cover the dough with a plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes, better 1 hour.
- After that time take a high pan and start heating the oil (I used 1 liter), then start to flatten the dough: cut it in smaller pieces, one by one, and flatten it as thin as possible, and while you do one piece keep the other dough covered with a towel, otherwise it will get dry and it’s not good.
- I flattened with a pasta machine, and 2-3 times bend the flattened dough in half and pass it through the machine again.
- Then cut the flattened dough into rectangles, usually in Italy we cut using a zigzag pastry wheel, and do also 2 parallel cuts inside the rectangles. Then make some thin holes, with a needle for example…I used this tool:
- Once you cut the rectangles you have to fry them soon, immediately: be sure that the oil is hot enough (otherwise the dough will absorb too much oil) and then fry the chiacchiere: 2-3 at each time, no more, otherwise the temperature of the oil will drop. Unfortunately, don’t think to cut all the dough into rectangles and then fry all together later, no, you have to flatten-cut-fry-flatten-cut-fry, continuously 🙂 that’s the secret for the best results and not to have dry dough.
- Few seconds for each side are enough, they just have to get the color, yellow/very light orange, not darker. Really few seconds. When they are too dark they are too heavy to digest and they are not that good.
- Once they are cooked drain them and place them on kitchen paper and dry well.
- Sprinkle abundant icing sugar on them, and enjoy their extremely light crunchiness! If you made them well, they will disappear in your mouth 🙂
If you’ll do it well, they will be good and crunchy even 5/6 days later.
PS: nowadays, following the craziness of the “diets”, you can find these sweets not fried but cooked in the oven: well, they are never good as these ones, never, they are never so thin and crunchy but always thick, they are not so enjoyable and they have nothing to share with the original ones and their history: my opinion is that Carnival comes only once in a year, and I eat this sweets just once in a year (for few days), so there is no problem to make them well, so deep fried 😀
Flour: farina di forza W330 from “Molino Rossetto”