How to Make Chiacchiere- A Classic Italian Carnival Treat

So, when my mother-in-law heard I was going to write about Chiacchiere her immediate response was…

Let’s make some together, I’ll teach you how.

Now, it’s here that I should point out that my mother-in-law in some kind of culinary genius. She is an authentic Sicilian housewife of the old mould. She whips up all kinds of amazing things without a written recipe to be seen anywhere. So, whenever she offers to teach me things I’m not one to say no (after all this woman is the reason my husband is prone to say “that’s not how my mum makes it”).

If you’ve been thinking since my last post- I’m not going to be in Italy around carnival so I won’t be able to try chiacchiere- then you’re wrong.

Here is how you can make this delicious carnival treat at home.

Ingredients

500g flour (my mother-in-law used 250g bread flourĀ 250g plain)

50g sugar

50g melted lard or butter

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Fortified wine to combine (in an Italian recipe this would be the infamous q.b quanto basta i.e. add as much as you deem necessary). Suitable wines would be Marsala, Madiera or sherry. My mother-in-law was using some homemade stuff made by her late father.

Method

Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix together. Then add the vanilla essence and slowly pour in the melted fat mixing between each addition (my mother-in-law used her hands for the entire mixing process).

Once the fat has been added you need to start adding the wine, kneading all the time. To get the best consistency you need to add less wine than you think. The resulting dough after the kneading process was still quite dry. In fact as you can see from the photo it was tough work and my mother-in-law moved the bowl to a lower surface so she could apply more force!

Cover and leave the dough to rest for at least half an hour. My mother-in-law said she normally leaves it for a couple of hours, but we only left it 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested take it out of the bowl and cut into pieces about the size of a golf ball.

This is where the process got very Italian and the pasta machine was put to use. The dough was still quite crumbly at this point. With the pasta machine set on a wide setting pass the dough through several times, folding over and passing it through again until the dough becomes uniform and is sticking together well. I’d say this was after being through the machine about 10-15 times for each golf-ball sized amount.

Once the dough was more elastic then it was passed through the machine one more time on the thin setting so the resulting dough strips were about 2mm thick.

I suppose you could do this folding and amalgamating by hand with a rolling pin. The important thing is to end up with an elastic dough rolled thinly to about 2mm thick strip.

Next comes the fun part: cutting out.

To do this I used a fluted pasta/pastry cutter.

There are a number of different ways to cut chiacchiere; I tried three.

The simplest is just to make ribbons about 2-3cm wide. Or you can make ‘farfalle’ like a pasta bow. The most fun though is the classic chiacchiere knot. Cut a strip about 5cm wide and 12cm long. Then cut a line about 4cm long down the middle of the strip. To make the knot you thread one end of the strip through the hole thereby twisting the pastry.

Now it’s time to fry the chiacchiere. Heat a pan of oil until hot enough that when you add the dough shapes they puff up and sizzle on the top. Fry until golden brown and then remove and cool on kitchen towel to absorb any extra oil.

Leave to cool and then dust with icing.

Munch!

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