Whatever you call them, they are all Delizioso!
It’s Carnival time again and for anyone in Tuscany at the moment, it’s the time to find their favourite sweets at the local bakery. Called by many names all over Italy but known as Cenci here in Florence, these fried but light biscuit treats are just perfect with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon. Difficult to stop eating them once you start though and I started polishing off this tray while the photos were being taken. Just re-styling I kept telling Emiliano as he snapped away.
I was surprised to learn that there is sometimes grappa used in these babies – not that I can detect the flavour and clearly the frying kills all alcohol which is a pity because there are many afternoons like today after struggling to put an overly tired, screaming & hysterical Matteo to sleep while he was also trying to bite me and pull my hair ………… well that I could do with a bit of grappa with my cup of tea!
They were also the cause of the latest contestant leaving Masterchef Italia last week. She just didn’t roll her pastry thin enough in the pressure test and ended up with raw dough on the inside.
Yesterday I bought the most beautiful book called I Love Tuscany by Giulia Scarpaleggia and her recipe for Cenci looks delicious. Take a look at her beautiful blog, Jul’s Kitchen for many more authentic Tuscan recipes.
I will have to wait until Matteo is out or asleep before attempting these as I don’t think that toddlers, baking and frying are a good mix!
There are quite a few variations with the recipe – some calling for grappa, vodka or brandy but in Tuscany, naturally Vin Santo is the preferred choice. You can also substitute the orange rind for lemon if you prefer.
My Calabrese Nonna used to always make them perfectly and they always bring back memories of visits to her house when we were younger. We always called them crostoli though.
If you want to know about the origins of Carnevale, I wrote about it in this earlier post.
As I am a new mother living in Italy, it is now my duty to make Matteo a costume for Carnevale. I thought that this year I would be spared the pressure of costume making as he is surely still too young to understand what it’s all about, Yes? Well No actually. Last Saturday I was at Matteo’s daycare with all the other parents making Carnival costumes. We had been told to bring a T-Shirt and a head band. We were then supplied with all types of fake fur, buttons and the Oh-So-Amazing hot glue gun!
I just want you know that group costume making is quite a competitive environment! The race for the nicest fur was something to see and I couldn’t believe how many mums hogged the glue gun for way too long in my opinion! Anyway, considering the limited amount of supplies, I was pretty happy with Matteo’s little costume. I tried on his tiger ears as soon as I got home and they lasted long enough for this quick snap. Next Tuesday I have to take him and his costume to day-care where they will celebrate Carnevale all together – can’t wait to see the photos! In the mean-time, I’m wracking my brain to think about how I can improve his costume before the big day! Not that I’m competitive or anything………….