It seems only right that carnival chiacchiere (chatter), a super-thin sheet of dough flavoured with either Alchermes, rum or a local liqueur, fried to a crisp and and and finished with an extra-large puff of icing sugar should be our marker that winter is on its last legs.
Its value as a quick fix of pleasure to be eaten indulgently with a friend whilst downing a quick coffee or taken as a bagful home to share is second to none. We need to chat, the physical intimate sort, feigning that we are listening for a split second when actually we are lost in the dazzling crunch of something yummy, the best type of doing two things at once! It can’t quite be quite captured online however hard we try.
It has almost taken the pandemic to convince some people of the value of a quick catch up over a childlike treat, it soothes and is just enough to reinstall our belief that we can make it through no matter how hard the environment.
In Roman Times they were known as frictilia, and they were fried in lard and eaten during Saturnalia, the Roman solstice festival celebrated between 17-23rd December that became Christmas. Their present-day name comes courtesy of Princess Margherita (of pizza fame) requesting her Neopolitan chef to create an elegant snack for her afternoon chats with girlfriends.
My lesson in making these was most kindly provided by the Panfilo Farmhouse b&b, this recipe from Alessandro Pradelli’s La Cucina Abruzzese, 900 Traditional Recipes.
Chiacchiere - Carnival's Chatty Sweets
- 500 gm Flour
- 20 gm Melted Unsalted Butter
- 2 Eggs
- 100 ml White Wine
- 90 ml Alchermes or Rum
- 1 Big Pinch Ground Cinammon
- Finely Grated Zest from 1 Unwaxed Lemon
- 1 Large Pinch Salt
- Low Grade Olive Oil for frying
- Icing Sugar to dust
- Place the flour on the counter, make a well and add the eggs, butter, lemon zest and pinch of salt and cinnamon, work together. Mix the Alchermes and white wine and add to your mixture, knead until you have a soft elastic dough. (Alternatively mix in your food processor and then knead!)
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll out a very thin sheet with a rolling pin. If you have a pasta machine, pass the dough through several times, folding andn smoothing it till you get to Level 5.
- Using a toothed wheel, cut out strips approximately 6 cm long and 2 cm wide.
- In a heavy bottomed, pan add enough olive oil to deep fry and when it is bubblin, fry the chiacchiere a few at a time. Don't add too many as they won't crisp up due to the lower temperature.
- When they are golden, lift the chiacchiere with a slotted spoon, let them drain and put them on kitchen paper.
- Arrange on a serving plate and sprinkle with plenty of sieved icing sugar