In Italy, as the Christmas and New Year celebrations are left in the past, a whole new pletora of sweet recipes appears in the windows of local bakeries and pastry shops... It is a slow progression, as we do celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th of January with "coal candies and cookies", but it is indeed a steady pickup from now until Fat Tuesday, the last day of our Carnival season.
While I am personally counting the days I need to wait, to start wetting my fingertips with fried oil and powdered sugar at my town's favorite pastry shop, I figured it was a good opportunity to scavenge through my old recipes and share with you the one that through my youth has made me the happiest kid ever!
Since I can remember in fact, every Carnival season my grandmother Lola used to deliver to our house a basket lined with a beautiful linen hand-embroidered cloth, full of Cenci she had been frying all day. While extremely simple and foolproof, these fried "Rags" are a once a year opportunity for gluttony, and I am sure that if you give them a go they will easily become staples in your house!
Serves: 8 / Prep Time: 20 mins / Inactive Prep Time: 30 mins / Cooking Time: 20 mins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1 Shot (1 1/2 ounces) of Vin Santo (or rum or brandy can do the trick as well)
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 4 cups safflower , vegetable, or canola oil for deep- frying
- Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
- In a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, granulated sugar, melted butter, eggs, Vin Santo, and orange zest. Mix for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough begins detaching from the sides of the bowl.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, seal it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Lightly dust a working surface with flour, roll the dough very thin, almost as if you were making fresh pasta (in fact, in case you have a pasta machine, that would do the trick too; I though personally like to work with my old wood rolling pin).
- Use a pastry wheel or a pizza cutter to slice the dough into 5-inch long, 1- inch wide strips.
- In high-sided skillet, add the oil to a level of 2 inches. Heat the oil over high heat until the deep-frying thermometer reads 360 degrees F.
- Fry the strips of dough in batches (the cenci), flipping occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes per batch, until they curl slightly and acquire a golden brown color.
- Transfer the cenci to a platter lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Let cool off for a few minutes, then dust them with the confectioners’ sugar and serve with a glass of Vin Santo.