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.
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.
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
I've here also Italian traditions but not this powdered sugar gifts..worth to try soon, now in Carnival :)
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!
Oh how I love these!
I so enjoyed your story and the fried pastry looks absolutely wonderful.What a grand way to celebrate Feast of the Epiphany.
I so enjoyed reading about ephiphany. Gotta love that fried pastry...it's addictive!!
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?
Great to learn more about Italian Festival! And what is this supposed to call?
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!
Fried pastry sounds good to me!
I could eat these with my morning coffee Claudia...
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!
I remember my mother making these when I was young. I loved them--Italian cruschki!
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!
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.
Oh, such scrumptious fried sweet treats! I would love these, will have to make them asap!
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.
I enjoyed the story Claudia and i know i would enjoy these treats...they kind of remind me of beignets!
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.
Fried Pastry Strips? OMG - I LOVE this!
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!
I love the story of La Befana! And your fried pastry. Such a yummy treat!
Oh, these look goooooood, Claudi! I think I need some desert, now!! ;)
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!
I was scrolling, scrolling...dying to see what you were going to put on top. Yes, sugar!
Wow. These look fantastic!!
Claudia, these are gorgeous and I love the story that goes along. I know I could not stop at eating just one.
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.
they are a perfect treat Claudia... the problem I have with them is eating too many! great with a little vin santo.
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.
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.
These look like a fabulous appetizer to pie. I think it's brain food too.
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