Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Epiphany

Epiphany. The last celebration of the Christmas season in Italy. Defined as " a Christian festival commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the person of the Magi." It also has come to mean in our vernacular a sudden understanding of the essence of something. I have had epiphanys - both in celebration of the day and in sudden understandings. They have been gratefully received. Especially when I have been dense!
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Yesterday, La Befana visited the children of Italy. Sometimes described as a wizened, witch-like old woman on a broomstick and other times thought to be lovely, she is beloved by young Italians. For it is La Befana who decides who gets presents and who gets coal. La Befana was visited by the Three Wise Men. She invited them into her kitchen (even though she was very
busy cleaning) and offered them some water. The Three Wise men invited her on the journey, but she declined. Couldn't they see she had cleaning to do? The Three Wise Men went on their way and La Befana swept. Later as she swept the dust outside, she glanced up at the sky and saw the Star of Bethlehem. And had her own epiphany. She instantly knew she had made a mistake and apparently got on her broomstick to find them and of course - never did. She roams the world searching for the Wise Men and the Baby Jesus.
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One day I shall write a play about La Befana. She roams the world. What has she seen? What has she done?
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Tonight we had sausages braised in wine for Epiphany. And blood oranges. And bugies... otherwise known as cencis... frappes or as we would say: fried pastry strips.


In a food processor combine these ingredients:
(Adapted from Tastes of Italia)
2-1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 T olive oil
1/4 cup Marsala wine
4 T orange zest
2 t vanilla

You will also need about 2 cups of olive oil for frying (I use way less and do it in a skillet - I do not deep fry) and powdered sugar for dusting at the end.

Pulse until the ingredients combine. If the dough is dry, add water 1 T at a time. Remove from processor and form into a shiny ball, gently kneading. Break the dough in fourths and roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick.
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With a pastry wheel (or knife or ravioli cutter) cut your strips to any length (mine were about 4 inches by 1-1/2 inches). Traditionally, they are a wee bit shorter.



Lay on waxed paper until ready to use. In a large skillet (or deep fryer - I don't own one of those), heat oil until a drop of water sizzles when dropped in the oil. Fry the strips in batches until golden - turning at least once.


Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.



Sift powdered sugar over them and serve.

So, while I am posting this a wee bit late for Epiphany, these are also traditionally served during Carnevale - which is happily - just around the corner!

33 comments:

Ciao Chow Linda said...

It looks like La Befana stopped at your house and left those wonderful fried treats. I'd eat those cenci, frappe, bugie or whatever they're called any time of the year.

Chow and Chatter said...

oh how interesting yep its true never made cupcakes, my mum made them a lot for us, I was always scared of baking before, as not good at it but my confidence is picking up LOL

those would be great with a cappuccino lol

Gera @ Sweets Foods Blog said...

I've here also Italian traditions but not this powdered sugar gifts..worth to try soon, now in Carnival :)

Cheers,

Gera

OysterCulture said...

Oh my, these pastry bits would kill me, I'd never be able to stop with one, two...three. They'd be like popcorn to me, oh heaven. Thanks for sharing. When I make them, I'll have to be in a room to share too!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Oh how I love these!

Mary said...

I so enjoyed your story and the fried pastry looks absolutely wonderful.What a grand way to celebrate Feast of the Epiphany.

Kim said...

I so enjoyed reading about ephiphany. Gotta love that fried pastry...it's addictive!!

theUngourmet said...

What a fun story! I've never heard this. A play would be wonderful!

I love this recipe! Did you use a sweet or dry Marsala, or does it matter?

My Little Space said...

Great to learn more about Italian Festival! And what is this supposed to call?

Ruth said...

Im with oysterculture on this one. They look addictive. La befana was a pleasant surprise for me and an even better one for Alex as he got extra pressies. Lol Children also get sweets shaped like coal which I thought was great fun, the idea being that they were naughty sometimes. Hope you do write that play!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Fried pastry sounds good to me!

Wanda said...

I could eat these with my morning coffee Claudia...

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

I love these. Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to see the pictures of the play you will write! You are an amazing talent!

ARLENE said...

I remember my mother making these when I was young. I loved them--Italian cruschki!

Claudia said...

UNGOURMET: I have used both swet and dry - it seems to moisten the dough but not flavor it. The Italians do like wine in their cookies!
MY LITTLE SPACE: What is "what" called" The strips or the Festival? The strips have a myriad of names: bugies, cencis, frappes.
ALL: Many thanks for kind comments! I only make these when my house is full!

Barbara GF said...

Oh, I love fried dough, Claudia; I can almost smell these cencis frying. I think a play about Le Befana is a wonderful idea and a great project for your new year.

5 Star Foodie said...

Oh, such scrumptious fried sweet treats! I would love these, will have to make them asap!

Barbara said...

Great post, Claudia!
And please pass those fried pastry pieces. I can practically taste them from here! So tempting. My grandmother used to make them for us... also with lots of confectioners sugar.

Katherine Aucoin said...

I enjoyed the story Claudia and i know i would enjoy these treats...they kind of remind me of beignets!

Rosabela said...

Thanks for the story of la befana! We never really celebrated it when we were kids but I have always heard about it. :-)

The pastry strips look yummy! My mom and I used to make something like it but without the marsala.

Darius T. Williams said...

Fried Pastry Strips? OMG - I LOVE this!

Donna-FFW said...

Oh My Good Lord.. These are one of those desserts that you can't eat just one, I can tell and I so so so want some. They sincerely look wonderful!

Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ said...

I love the story of La Befana! And your fried pastry. Such a yummy treat!

Caveman Cooking said...

Oh, these look goooooood, Claudi! I think I need some desert, now!! ;)

Viviane, Taste-Buds said...

What is with Epiphany and frying desserts or pastries. In Lebanon we have fried pastry desserts for Epiphany too. I wonder if it is common for every country that celebrates it!

unconfidentialcook said...

I was scrolling, scrolling...dying to see what you were going to put on top. Yes, sugar!

Mary said...

Wow. These look fantastic!!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Claudia, these are gorgeous and I love the story that goes along. I know I could not stop at eating just one.
Sam

Katy ~ said...

Thank you so much for the story. I loved every word of it.

And those treats! Oh my! I want a plateful just to myself.

joe@italyville said...

they are a perfect treat Claudia... the problem I have with them is eating too many! great with a little vin santo.

Chef Shari said...

oh Claudia these look so yummy and addictive. I am afraid to try these before I have a houseful for fear I would gobble them all up myself.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I know my husband and i would love these Claudia! His Mom would always make zeppole for the epiphany.

Your idea for a play written about La Befana sounds intriguing! I always get her confused with Tommie di Paloa's "Strega Monna" character.

The Blonde Duck said...

These look like a fabulous appetizer to pie. I think it's brain food too.