CENCI- Word of the Week: February is that time of the year announcing the imminent arrival of Spring and the approaching end of the cold months…even though, very often we have to wait until half of March to really enjoy milder temperatures.
But February in Italy is also closely related to Carnevale (actually, dates always change according to the religious calendar) and in my childhood memories Febbraio is il mese del Carnevale.
Together with longer days (very much welcomed by people that, like me, hate driving in the dark…so it’s for me synonymous of a “new found freedom” …) this time of the year is rich in…calories…
Yes, it’s time for some traditional recipes that I deeply love!
I already shared with you the secrets behind the “Frittelle” (to me, undisputed number 1 is the fritter-maker of Piazza del Campo:
So it is now time to look into the other traditional protagonist of the table: I CENCI.
Cencio & Cenci
CENCIO- our Word of the Week, in Italian, is any piece of fabric with no great value, a rag. It is an old word still used in everyday language in Tuscany. .eg: Un cencio per pulire il pavimento o per togliere la polvere (spolverare)
Fare il cencio, In Tuscany means fainting.
Sei pallido come un cencio!- you hear, when someone is really pale
However, in Siena IL CENCIO, intended as the famous precious painted silk offered as a prize to the contrada winner of the Palio horse race, is a very special painting.
And CENCI are the Carnival sweet treats made out of a fried dough sprinkled with sugar, dominating the window displays of all Bakeries and Patisseries in our cities at this time of the year.
They are traditionally known as Cenci in Toscana, but they called with different names in other Italian regions: chiacchiere, bugie, crostoli, galani o frappe.
Their origins date back to “antica Roma” when Romans used to make “frictilia”, fried dough, right during the Carnival period.
L’origine delle chiacchiere risale a quella delle frictilia, dei dolci fritti nel grasso che nell’antica Roma venivano preparati proprio durante il periodo dell’odierno Carnevale
The base is a mixture of flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a liquor, such as brandy, marsala, sambuca, vinsanto or grappa. Then the dough is cut into strips and there are then two ways of cooking them: fried or baked – fritti o in forno.
La base è un impasto di farina, burro, zucchero, uova e una componente alcolica, come l’acquavite, il marsala, la sambuca, il vinsanto o la grappa. Successivamente l’impasto viene tagliato a strisce e ci sono due modi di cuocerli: fritti o in forno.
Finally, it is sprinkled with powdered sugar or, according to some variations, can also be covered with honey.
Infine si spolvera con zucchero a velo o, secondo alcune varianti, possono anche essere coperte da miele
La ricetta toscana di Giulia
As it universally recognized that I am the best food-taster in the whole Tuscany, but a complete wreck in the kitchen, I am not even trying to give you the exact Cenci recipe: I rather copy here the link to the beautiful Tuscan blog Jul’s kitchen
where you can read all about how to make the best Cenci according to Tuscan tradition.
Enjoy and let me know the result if you try!