It’s coming up to Carnival time and bakeries in Italy have trays of ‘chiacchiere’ in their windows. Think a pastry that is thin, crispy, fried and covered in icing sugar….. I knew that would get your attention! We would have these when I was growing up in Australia only when my Calabrese Nonna Concetta would make them. I’ve always called them ‘Crostoli’, and their name changes throughout Italy. The recipe remains more or less the same, the only real difference I noticed was that some people don’t add butter or fat to the recipe.
I recently asked on Facebook what people called these where they were from in Italy, and although Chiacchiere was the most common name, they are also known in various regions of Italy as: Crostoli – Cenci – Frappe – Sfrappe – Sfrappole – Bugie – Stracci – Fiocchi – Cencetti – Galani – Sprelle – Meraviglias – Teste di Turchi – Intrigoni – Monachelle – Straccetti – Nacatoli – Grostoli – Gali. A couple of these are dialect, but I found it fascinating that one traditional sweet pastry can be called so many different names.
Whatever you prefer to call them, there is no denying that they are addictively delicious, and impossible to eat just one. They are not at all difficult to make, although a pasta machine will make your life a little easier. This recipe comes the closest to resembling the crostoli my Nonna would make, and tasting them again invoked nostalgic childhood memories.
*Video of me making these follows the recipe. (swipe down!)
- 300g plain flour
- 200g self raising flour
- *(Alternatively you can use 500g plain flour and add 8g of powdered yeast)
- 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk (lightly beaten)
- 50g butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grappa
- pinch salt
- 80g sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- sunflower or peanut oil for frying
- icing sugar
- In an electric mixer, add sifted flour, sugar, eggs, grappa, salt and lemon zest and mix until well combined. Using a dough hook, add the butter, and mix until a dough forms.
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 10 inutes or until the dough is smooth. You may have to add a little water if the dough seems crumbly or dry. Roll into a ball, cover in plastic kitchen wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Divide dough into 4. Keep unused dough wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Knead dough and roll out with the use of a rolling pin. The next part is like making pasta. Flatten the end of the piece of dough with the palm of your hand, and using a pasta machine pass it through once on the largest setting. (My pasta machine is the attachment for my Kitchen Aid, and the largest gap is No. 1. )
- Fold the dough in 3 and pass it through No. 1 another time. Repeat passing it through the pasta machine, increasing the number each time, and finish at No. 5. (If you don’t own a pasta machine, you can roll out the pasta by hand, just ensure your dough is very thin.)
- Using a zig-zag pastry cutter, cut the pastry into strips. Cut a small line in the middle of each strip, and then fold one end in and under through the middle space. (see photos). Some people don’t do this.. and you can choose to cook them without twisting the central part if you like.
- Leave prepared raw chiacchiere to rest for a couple of minutes and heat oil ina saucepan or deep frying pan to a temperature of about 180°C. (Test oil with a scrap of dough).
- Work quickly, add 3 chiacchiere, turn them over, and remove draining on kitchen paper. Repeat until you have cooked them all, and continue until you have used all remaining dough.
- Serve sprinkled with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.