In Italy every special occasion is tied to culinary tradition and Carnival is no exception! So here is one of the Carnival treats which is never missing from the table of any ‘marchigiano’.
Tradition has it that the name ‘cicerchiata’ derives from ‘cicerchia’, the famous certified Slow Food legume, or pulse, similar in shape and size to a pea or chickpea, native to the town Serra de’ Conti. In fact these deep fried 1 centimetre diameter balls of honey and usually almonds look like lots of little piles of the pulses.
The original recipe calls for lard but Mom Gabri chooses to fry with seed oil.
FOR THE DOUGH
circa 300 g 00 flour
3 tbls ‘EVO’ oil
1 tbls Mistral (anise liquor)
3 tbls sugar
grated lemon peel (1/2 lemon)
1 small packet baking powder
FOR THE CARAMEL
300 g honey
circa 3 tbls sugar
peeled almonds as needed (optional)
peanut oil as needed
1. Put the flour, sugar and baking powder on a flat surface and make a well in the centre.
2. Fold in the eggs, one at a time, then the ‘EVO’ oil, grated lemon peel, and finally the Mistrà (or another brand of anise liquor).
3. Now you’re ready to start kneading the dough. Work together all the ingredients until your dough is still soft but compact. If needed, add more flour.
4. Let the dough sit for about 30 minutes.
5. Now roll out the dough so it’s fairly thin (circa 1.5 cm thick).
6. Slice the dough into 1 cm-wide strips, then cut the strips into squares (1×1 cm). Roll these squares of dough in the palms of your hands forming all the dough into little balls.
7. The only thing left is to fry them in a generous amount of seed oil.
8. Now you’re ready to prepare the icing. In a small non-stick saucepan heat the honey and sugar until it turns brown making sure the sugar is not completely melted. If you are using almonds, now’s the time to add them.
9. Slowly drip the glaze while still hot over the little ‘cicerchiata’ balls in a bowl and carefully stir with a wooden spoon.
10. At this point, Mom Gabri places the balls on a serving plate. She shapes them into a doughnut: if you do, make sure your hands are slightly damp when shaping them. An alternative is to fill paper muffin cups with the balls.
HAPPY CARNIVAL AND… BUON APPETITO!