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.
One day I shall write a play about La Befana. She roams the world. What has she seen? What has she done?
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
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.
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.