If there’s a single, universal, fried dessert treat in Italy it would have to be cenci or chiacchiere – fried ribbons (sometimes called nastrini, stracci, cenci, or frappe). Cenci are crispy sugared strips of scented dough, fried and then coated in confectioner’s sugar. During Carnivale in Tuscany this sweet treat is made in most homes and are consumed before the Lenten season begins.
Cenci are fairly easy and straight forward to make and are ideal in my book because they are “just right sweet”; that is to say, not overly indulgent but certainly satisfying! The following recipe is adopted from Mary Ann Esposito and is very close to our Scordo family recipe.
- 2 tablespoons of rum
- Zest of two lemons
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 6 cups of frying oil, such as canola
- ⅓ cup confectioner's sugar
- ¼ cup sugar
- Start by whisking the eggs, rum, zest, salt, sugar and butter, Add the flour and then proceed to kneed the ingredient and create the dough. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap (move to the fridge and let sit for 60 minutes).
- Next, divide the dough into four equal pieces because it will be easier to handle. Use a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a rectangle no more than about ⅛-inch thick. Grab your pastry wheel and cut oblong shaped pieces about 5½-inches long and 2-inches wide. Make a 1-inch cut in the center of each piece but don't cut through to the ends. Place the pieces on clean towels until all the dough is used.
- To thin the dough using a pasta machine, flatten the dough slightly with a rolling pin, then lightly dust it with flour and thin it in the machine using the roller section. I thin the dough to the highest number on my machine, which is 7, because I like my cenci thin, but adjust for the thickness you prefer. Cut into strips as described above.
- Heat 6 cups of vegetable oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit in a large frying pan. Fry the cenci a few at a time until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels.
- While still warm, place the cenci in a clean paper bag with the confectioner's sugar. Close the top of the bag and shake gently to coat the cenci.