Chiacchiere di carnevale – Carnival pastries

 

It is Carnevale right now and most Italians would not pass the opportunity to munch on the delectable seasonal deep fried pastries called chiacchiere (pronounced kiah-kihe-reh). They are crisp, not overly sweet, feather light and shatter as soon as you pop one in your mouth. They are insubstantial and irresistible, at any time of the day. The hallmark of good chiacchiere is their lightness and irregular look: when you slip them into the hot frying fat (once lard,  now vegetable oil), they puff up dramatically and end up looking like some out-of.space rock formation a child might have drawn. Chiacchiere are popular throughout the country, but crop up with different names: chiacchiere (meaning chatter or gossips),  bugie (lies), frappe, cenci (rags), galani, lattughe (lettuces), cioffe , crustuli etc.
They are sold at bakeries, pastry shops (pasticcerie), supermarkets, street markets: they are everywhere at this time of the year. As soon as Carnival is over (46 days before Easter, when Lent begins), they disappear, only to come back the following year. This rituality and clinging to traditions I find endearing and one of the most precious aspects of Italian food.

There are endless versions of chiacchiere,  all pretty similar: after all, chiacchiere are nothing more than a glorified egg pasta dough that is deep fried and (generally) dusted with sugar.
Some people like to drizzle honey or vincotto over the chiacchiere, in the South of Italy chiacchiere can be found paired with sanguinaccio, a delicious jam-like concoction of chocolate and pig’s blood (believe me: it is as delicious as it is rare, these days): all good choices, even if I prefer the purity of the original version.

The following is a  lightly adapted version from Italian uber patissier Luigi Biasetto. The dough is subtly flavoured with orange and lemon zest and the binding liquid being used should be Triple Sec – I did not have it and I used white wine only. Making the dough for chiacchiere and rolling it is akin to making savory egg pasta: if you have doubts, please check the detailed explanation given by Marcella Hazan in her Marcella Cucina

Chiacchiere – Carnival pastries
Adapted from a recipe from renowned top patissier Luigi Biasetto, which I found on this excellent blog.

For 4 portions
220 g 00 flour or plain flour
20 g caster sugar
a pinch of salt (6 gr)
2 gr baking powder (1 scant teaspoon)
45 g full fat milk
1 egg
20 g white wine or vermouth or grappa
20 g butter
grated zest of half an orange of of half a lemon

Mix all the ingredients as if you are making pasta dough, either by hand or in a food mixer or even a food processor. If the dough feels too dry, add a little more white wine by the teaspoon.
The dough has now to be rolled out very thinly using a pasta machine. Pass the dough through every single notch of the pasta machine – you do want the dough to go through the very last setting too. Again check Hazan if in doubt.
Rest the pastry, wrapped in cling film, in a warm spot for one hour: Mr Biasetto says that this is crucial to obtain later those bubbles chiacchiere are know for: I was not hundred per cent sure sure about this, but I followed the instructions .In the past I made chiacchiere without such rest and I can honestly say they were not the worse for it. Who  knows?

Divide the strips of dough into rectangular small post card size pieces,  and, using a fluted wheel, cut two or three slashes in the middle of each piece. Deep fry the chiacchiere,  keeping  the vegetable oil at 175 Celsius/347 F.
It is a matter of seconds: I recommend frying chiacchiere one at a time and to remove it as soon as it is barely gold, turning it once in the oil. Check my video. Drain and dust with either icing sugar or caster sugar when cold

My notes::
On the flour:  according to Mr Biasetto (and other top Italian patissiers) a strong bread should be used for chiacchiere: this would allow the dough to be rolled out transparently thin and then to be fried without it absorbing too much oil. I have never had issues using a softer, lower protein plain flour, which I think delivers a better, more tender feel.

On deep frying the chiacchiere: my recommended temperature of 175 C/347 F is ideal. I have seen recipes suggesting to deep fry the chiacchiere at a higher temperature: I think that is a mistake, because the risk of burning them is high. Chiacchiere should be a delicate gold colour, no more.

For extra crips and dry chiacchiere: when they are cold, do not dust them with sugar but place them in a slow oven (120 C/266 F) for about 20 minutes.

Chiacchiere should be stored in a covered tin and they keep well for up to a week or longer, even if, I think they are at their best for the first few days only.

 

11 thoughts on “Chiacchiere di carnevale – Carnival pastries

  1. Chiacchiere are so delicious! In my small town they are known as “storch” maybe derived from stracci. Sometimes I don’t get them to bubble and become airy and I think it could be the flour. I have never tried them with strong bread flour, though. Interesting thought.

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    1. ciao Marcellina
      now that I think of it… u r right.. stracci are a another name…in fact in Tuscany, chiacchiere are called cenci, which means stracci…
      ….I want to try myself with a stronger flour to see if there is any difference. ciao, stef

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  2. Ciao, Stefano,

    I have never had chiacchiere, mostly because I have never been to Carnevale and because I don’t deep fry a lot at home. But they sound worth making at least once!

    Like you, it is the traditions like this that makes me love Italy so very much.

    Thanks fro another great recipe.

    A presto, d

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  3. Brings back memories… my grandmother made the best chiacchiere. I make them, too, of course, but never quite as good as I remember hers being. Perhaps I can recapture that taste with all the tips here. For example, I’m not sure I let the dough rest long enough…

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    1. ciao frank… I am pretty sure signora Angelina (it was her?) would have had something to say about my chiacchiere: I am an amateur deep frier.. still, I like sticking to these traditions… as for techniques: I have always rested the dough for chiacchiere but not as carefully as stated in this recipe (in a warm spot, it is said): I asked my Italian friend to check the book and tell me if he (Biasetto, the patsies) gives any explanation…I rested the dough in the oven, where I had placed a mug with some boiling water. The fried pretty well, I have to admit. well, as I said to Michelle, … there are still a couple of weeks until the end of carnival (I will make some frittelle next week … said the main who should be on a strict diet! 🙂 ) ciao, st

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    1. ciao Michelle… you still have a couple of weeks to make some carnival fritters: chiacchiere or frittelle…
      chiacchiere are pretty easy: Hazan has a recipe in Essentials, although a pretty austere one, If I remember well… I think I will make frittelle with sultanas next week (frittelle are doughy, with bits in them: sultanas, chocolate ecc…)… how did u find Rome? my Roman friends say the capital has really got worse: dirty, bumpy roads ecc… (I have not been there for few years now…)… any good pizza bianca? ….or other good food? ciao, s

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      1. Alas, we were only in Rome for a few days and I was sick for a good portion of it. (I HOPE it wasn’t the absolutely delicious pasta with chicken giblet sauce … the only thing that I ate that Steve didn’t.) That definitely put a crimp in our eating adventures! The only pizza we had was some takeaway from Bonci, which I found somewhat underwhelming. It was my first trip to Rome, so I can’t say how things might have changed (and it was so many years since Steve’s last visit that he couldn’t really comment either). But the small taste definitely makes me want to return one day.

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        1. oh, poor u… an unforgettable first time in Rome!
          BOnci: I loved it! this was few years ago, when he was already famous, but not THIS famous. at the time he had only the tiny pizzeria in the Piramide area: no sitting down, basically a cubicle of a shop.. but the pizza (or to be precise: the stuffed focaccia) was excellent… do try his dough though: it is simple and, I reckon, pretty good: light and airy, but not gummy (even if, I confess, I have a soft spot for the very oily focaccia dough Silverton makes/from a masterclass series on the N Y Times): anyway: Bonci’s pizza at home can be a fun experiment and u can also have a sneak at some of his recipes on the amazon’s preview of his book
          … rome is… rome– beautiful and infuriating at the same time, the marvels come with some nasty bits…

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