Giulia Scarpaleggia shares her family’s secret Carnival cenci recipe.
By Giulia Scarpaleggia
I knew that sooner or later I’d have to talk about Carnival. Carnival parades, more or less successful fancy dresses and colourful confetti that will sneak into your dresses worse than the sea sand into your swimming costumes, well, they are really not my cup of tea. The Carnival is the last obstacle before spring and I am really looking forward to the day when the snow will finally melt, giving way to all the warm temperatures expectations.
Though, it would be unfair to affirm that I do not like Carnival as a whole. Actually, on a second thought, there is something I appreciate. First thing, I have fond memories of the Carnival tales my teacher used to tell us during winter days at the elementary school, with that fun and irriverent traditional masks: Columbine, Harlequin, Punchinello, Pantaloon and Balanzone, and our Stenterello from Florence… I still love their vintage and romantic allure.
Then there are the Carnival sweet treats.
Now we are talking business, Carnival sweets constitute a valid reason to appreciate this time of the year! In Tuscany during Carnival days we traditionally eat cenci (litteraly rugs, fried dough) and rice fritters, and I really wouldn’t be able to choose which one I prefer. This year, feeling brave, I sat mum and grandma at a table with two significant Tuscan cookbooks, Pellegrino Artusi and Giovanni Righi Parenti, to scribble down two valid recipes for our traditional Carnival sweet treats, in order to give grams and steps to our a little bit of this and a little bit of that procedure.
Working on the cenci recipe, I took notes from Artusi’s 453. Cenci recipe for what regards ingredients quantities and from Giovanni Righi Parenti’s recipe for flavours and aromas, with the addition of orange zest and vin santo.
First with my grandma and then on Sunday afternoon with mum, we tried to give to the cenci the traditional crispness that makes them melt in your mouth and the fruity orange scent that mum remembered from her childhood.
A teaspoon of baking soda will help the cenci to be light and develop those airy bubbles on the surface, a sign that you knead the dough, rolled it out and fried cenci perfectly, or, at least, it’s like this according to my parents’ childhood memories!
Anyway, this is the recipe of our family Carnival cenci, but I’m pretty sure that every family in Italy has it’s own secret recipe, along with a special and different name for this carnival fried dough, since they are a cross cultural element.
Originally Published: January 3, 2014