Carnevale Crisps

Cenci or Sfrappole

from Dolci - Italy's Sweets
Serves 8, Makes about 5 dozen
From Chapter 8: Holiday Traditions

Fritto é buono tutto, anche l'aria.
Everything is good fried, even air.

Bet you can't eat just one! Crunchy wisps, feather-light, generously sprinkled with confectioners' sugar – this is the classic Carnevale treat, fabulous any time of year.

The secret to making them light and absolutely, totally non-greasy is to roll the dough paper thin.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, diced
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Marsala wine, plus more as needed
Zest of 1 lemon or 1/2 orange
Peanut or other light vegetable oil for frying
Confectioners' sugar

Put the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, butter, sugar salt, and Marsala. Begin to incorporate flour into the center liquids, working with your fingers, until dough forms. If dry, add a few more drops of Marsala, if too moist, sprinkle with a bit more flour. Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. This is key to getting those pretty little bubbles on the dough when you fry it.

Working in small batches, run the dough through a pasta maker, starting at the widest opening and ending at the most narrow. Lay the strips of thin dough onto a clean cotton canvas cloth or lightly floured work surface.

Cut the dough into whatever shapes you like, either using a curly edged ravioli cutter or a knife. They can be rectangular, triangular, irregular, anything! One of the common versions is to cut a rectangle, about 3 1/2 inches long by 2 inches wide, and making a 2-inch slit in the center.

Pour 1 inch of oil into a deep pot, and heat to 335 degrees F or test if the oil is hot enough by putting a small bit of thin dough into the oil. It will rise within a second or two if the oil is hot enough.

Fry the dough in batches until just lightly barely golden (Note: they fry very quickly because they are so thin). Drain on paper towels.

Serve at room temperature dusted on both sides with lots of confectioners' sugar.

Lost in translation

These fried Carnivale treats are found in various regions of Italy, under one cute name or another: Chiacchiere--"chatter", zacarette--"shavings" cenci--"rags," or bugie-"lies" each seasoned with the area's local specialty wine or liqueur.

Traditional Sweets for Carnevale:

"Big bombs" are fried hole-less donuts coated in granulated sugar, which can be filled with custard or jam.

Very small balls of fried dough rolled in granulated sugar.

Small fried honey drenched balls of dough. A specialty of central Italy--- Abruzzo, Umbria, Marche, and Lazio.

Southern Italy's version of cicerchiata. Fried marble-sized balls of dough drenched honey and sometimes sprinkled with colored sugar balls. See page X for recipe.

Tortelli Fritte di Carnevale
Little pillows of dough with a sweet filling of jam, ricotta, nuts or chocolate.

Fried dough puffs coated with granulated sugar. A Naples specialty, the name comes from the inventor of the Zeppelin, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.