Angel wings – Chiacchiere – carnival biscuits

Chiacchiere finished dish

Chiacchiere finished dish

Like in most catholic countries, the start of lent is a big occasion in Italy. Carnival (carnivale) runs from “fat Thursday , giovedi grasso” until “fat Tuesday, martedi grasso”. Traditionally people dress up in masks and costumes, but outside of Venice, this is mostly only done by small children. However everybody uses it as an excuse to eat lots of sweet things. This is Italy after all :) This recipe is for one of the most common biscuits. They have many regional names,  bugie,  cenci,  crostoli,  frappe,  galani,  sfrappole ,but here they are known as chiacchiere. A rough translation would be “chatty biscuits”. There are many variations on the basic recipe, some include  grappa or wine, or lemon zest, but this is one of the simplest.

Chiacchere ingredients

Chiacchere ingredients

  • 280g plain flour
  • 70g potato starch (if you can’t find this, use all plain flour)
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • A few drops of vanilla essence or a sachet of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying

Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough.

Chiacchere mixing dough

Chiacchere mixing dough

Knead it for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth.

Chiacchere dough

Chiacchere dough

Roll it out very thinly. If the dough is too sticky, dust with a little flour. You are aiming for about the thickness of lasagne. In fact, if you have a pasta rolling machine, that would be perfect.

Chiacchere ready to fry

Chiacchere ready to fry

Cut out rectangles of about 6×3 cm (2×1 inch) and make a slit in the middle. A pastry wheel is good for this.

Chiacchere frying

Chiacchere frying

Deep fry in hot oil (about 190°c 375°f) until they are puffed up and lightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar.

Pettole

Pettole finished dish

Pettole finished dish

puglia crestFrom Puglia. Pettole are sweet or savoury doughnuts. In the region of Campania , and I believe the US, they are known as zeppole. Here in Puglia, zeppole refers to a cake traditionally eaten on St Joseph’s day. They are called pettole here in Puglia and some regions of Basilicata. They are traditionally eaten on St Martin’s day in Lecce (Nov 11), St Cecilia’s day in Taranto (Nov 22),  Around the immaculate conception on the 7th and 8th of December in Brindisi, and Christmas Eve in Foggia. They are generally eaten during the Christmas period throughout the region. They can be prepared in two ways, sweet or savoury. The savoury version can be plain, or contain other ingredients, such as olives, cooked cauliflower, salt cod , sundried tomatoes and anchovies. The sweet versions are dredged in sugar and/or dipped in vincotto a sweet, concentrated grape juice produced in Puglia. Honey or jam are also common if you can’t find vincotto.

  • 375 ml warm water
  • 500 g oo flour
  • Half a block of fresh yeast or 3½ g dried
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • Oil for deep frying
  • For the savoury version:- 10 olives, stoned and sliced into rings. Use black or green or a mixture of both.
  • For the sweet version:- Granulated sugar, vincotto or honey.
Pettole ingredient

Pettole ingredient

Dissolve the yeast in the water. Mix together the water and flour. Add the salt at the end of mixing. You should have a very wet dough. If you are making the savoury version, stir in the olives.

Pettole mixed dough

Pettole mixed dough

Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours.

Pettole ready to cook

Pettole ready to cook

Wet your hands and scoop up about a tablespoon of dough and deep fry until it is lightly brown. You will need to turn them halfway through cooking. Drain on kitchen paper.

Pettole frying

Pettole frying

If you are making the sweet version, dredge each pettole in sugar and serve with a dish of vincotto or honey to dip them in.

Pettole sweet version

Pettole sweet version

Plum Cake

Plum Cake

Plum Cake

Plum Cake. You see this cake all over Italy. It is a type of sponge cake, baked in a loaf tin, similar to what is known as a loaf cake in the UK. In my opinion Italy does most things to do with food extremely well. One possible exception is breakfast. It is usually just coffee and some variety of cake.  The coffee is very good though :-) This is a very common breakfast cake. I haven’t translated the name. It always appears in English, although the pronunciation is more ploomcake. It never, however, contains plums, or indeed any other kind of fruit. I have asked around, but nobody has any idea how it got its name. If anybody knows, please let me know.

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 4 eggs, seperated
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g 00 flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • A pinch of salt
Plum Cake ingredients

Plum Cake ingredients

Beat the butter together with the sugar using a wooden spoon.

Plum Cake butter and sugar

Plum Cake butter and sugar

When they are combined, add the egg yolks and continue beating until you get a smooth mixture.

Plum Cake egg yolks

Plum Cake egg yolks

Whip the egg white, together with a pinch of salt, with an electric whisk until you get stiff peaks.

Plum Cake egg whites

Plum Cake egg whites

Gently fold in the egg whites, into the egg yolk mixture.

Plum Cake flour

Plum Cake flour

Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and the vanilla essence.

Plum Cake ready for the oven

Plum Cake ready for the oven

Grease a large loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. Pour in the mixture.

Plum Cake finished dish

Plum Cake finished dish

Bake at 170°c for 40-45 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it is ready.

Tiramisu – Original recipe

Tiramisu is ubiquitous in restaurants within Italy and around the world. The translation literally is “pick me up”. Idiomatically it means something like “make me happy”. It is quite a recent invention and didn’t start to become popular both  nationally and internationally until the 80s.

As with most things in Italy there is a great debate about the true origin of tiramisu(or tiramesù in the Venetian dialect). Some sources put its origin as Siena in Tuscany however I think that the most credible claim comes from Treviso, in the Veneto near to Venice. Roberto Linguanotto from the Beccherie restaurant claims to have invented it at the end of the 60s and this is his recipe. People have changed the recipe a lot over the years and the original included no cream or alcohol.

The recipe was for a restaurant size portion but I used a third of the quantities to make 6 or 7 big portions.

Tiramisu finished dish

Tiramisu finished dish

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 160 g sugar
  • 330 g mascarpone
  • Up to 20 Savoiardi biscuits  (also known as ladyfingers)
  • Enough strong unsweetened espresso coffee (ristretto) to dip the biscuits in, allowed to cool
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder to dust the top
Tiramisu ingredients

Tiramisu ingredients

Whip the egg yolks together with the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is stiff.

Tiramisu egg yolks and sugar

Tiramisu egg yolks and sugar

Fold in the mascarpone.

Tiramisu folding in the marsapone

Tiramisu folding in the marsapone

Dip half of the biscuits into the coffee. Be careful not to make them too wet as they will disintegrate. Arrange them in a single layer in a dish. Roberto recommends a round one.

Tiramisu dipping the biscuits

Tiramisu dipping the biscuits

Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuit.

Tiramisu first layer with cream

Tiramisu first layer with cream

Repeat to form a second layer.

Tiramisu second layer without cream

Tiramisu second layer without cream

Dust the top liberally with cocoa powder.

Tiramisu dusted with cocoa

Tiramisu dusted with cocoa

Chill the dish in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.


Meringues with chocolate ice cream

Meringhette al gelato di cioccolato. One story about the origin of meringues is that they were invented in the Swiss town of Meiringen by an Italian chef named Gasparini. I quite like this story as I am biased because I also have strong links to Switzerland :-) I needed to use up the egg whites left over from a Tiramisu so I did a bit of searching and came up with this from Sale & Pepe magazine.  The idea came from the magazine, but the recipe for the meringues is slightly different as I wanted to be more precise with the measurements. The quantities are one part caster sugar, one part icing sugar and one part egg white. Serves 6

Meringues finished dish

Meringues finished dish

  • 400 g chocolate ice cream
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 120g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Meringue ingredients

Meringue ingredients

Beat the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric whisk while gradually adding the caster sugar. When the mixture has risen and is shiny and quite dense, carefully fold in the icing sugar.

Meringue whipped egg white and sugar

Meringue whipped egg white and sugar

Make small meringues by placing  teaspoons of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Meringues baked

Meringues baked

Bake at 90°C with the oven door propped open to allow the moisture to escape. It should take about an hour and a half.

When the meringues are ready, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.

Serve them by making a sandwich with two meringues and some ice cream.

Strawberry granita

This is probably my favourite granita. You can top it with cream if you like. I like to use it to top fruit salad. Like all granitas, it is very easy to make.

strawberry granita finished dish

strawberry granita finished dish

  • 800 g strawberries
  • 5 heaped tablespoons sugar
  • 150 ml water
  • juice of 1 lemon

Clean and cut the strawberries into halves or quarters depending on size.

Strawberries with sugar

Strawberries with sugar

Sprinkle the strawberries with two tablespoons of the sugar.

Macerated strawberries

Macerated strawberries

Leave them to macerate for an hour or so until they start to release their liquid.

Strawberries ready to freeze

Strawberries ready to freeze

Liquidize the strawberries and add the lemon juice.

Pour into a wide shallow dish and freeze for 1 hour until ice crystals start to form. Remove from the freezer and scrape the frozen bits back into the mixture. Return to the freezer and repeat every 30 minutes or so until the granita is frozen, with a fluffy, crystalline texture. Spoon into dishes and serve straight away.

Chocolate salami

Versions of this dish are popping up all over the place at the moment. I don’t know the exact origin, but it is definitely not traditional. I had some a while back in a local restaurant and was under orders from Mariella to cook it at home :-) She even provided the hazelnuts from a tree in her garden. I prefer to leave the biscuits in quite large pieces. It would look more like salami if the pieces were smaller, but I like the texture like this. This would keep very well in the freezer. I don’t know how many this serves, but it is quite heavy, so lots.
Chocolate salami finished dish

Chocolate salami finished dish

  • 300 g plain biscuits
  • 150 g unsalted butter
  • 200 g plain chocolate
  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy or rum
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g sugar
Chocolate salami ingredients

Chocolate salami ingredients

Break the biscuits into small pieces. I used a type called Saiwa Oro which are readily available here, but you can see from the picture what type to aim for.

Chocolate salami biscuits

Chocolate salami biscuits

Lightly roast the hazelnuts and rub them together to try and remove as much of the skin as possible. Put them in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

Chocolate salami hazlenuts

Chocolate salami hazlenuts

Make sure the butter is at room temperature and whisk it lightly by hand. Add the eggs and whisk it some more. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. When the chocolate is smooth, add it to the butter and egg mixture. Make sure it is not too hot or the eggs will curdle. Add the brandy or rum. If you want to make an alcohol free version, use rum essence. Add the hazelnuts and mix well. Add the biscuits and mix again. When the biscuits are well covered by the chocolate, turn the mixture out onto a large square of greaseproof paper. Form it into a rough salami shape.

Chocolate salami mix on greaseproof paper

Chocolate salami mix on greaseproof paper

Bring the greaseproof paper up at the sides to make a sausage shape. Twist the paper together at the ends so you get a compact salami shape.

Chocolate salami ready for the fridge

Chocolate salami ready for the fridge

Cover the roll in aluminium foil and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Chocolate salami with icing sugar

Chocolate salami with icing sugar

Unwrap and slice the roll reasonably thinly to serve. Lightly dust the plate with icing sugar if you like.


Limoncello granita

This is a very untraditional version of lemon granita. Limoncello is traditionally made in the south of Italy in the “toe” of the “boot” and is now very popular here and elsewhere. I once looked up the recipe when I was in England and it started with the line “Take one litre of 98% abv alcohol”! This is definitely an adult dessert. It has the advantage of being even easier that the regular lemon granita because it remains soft in the freezer. Serves 6 or more.

Limoncello granita finished dish

Limoncello granita finished dish

  • 500 ml water
  • 125 g sugar (white or brown)
  • 50 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 125 ml limoncello
Linoncello granita ingredients

Linoncello granita ingredients

Put the sugar in a pan with the cold water. Bring to the boil, stirring a couple of times until the sugar has dissolved then leave to boil for 5 minutes.

Limoncello granita syrup

Limoncello granita syrup

Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir in the lemon juice and limoncello.

Limoncello granita ready to freeze

Limoncello granita ready to freeze

Pour into a wide shallow dish and freeze for 1 hour until ice crystals start to form. Remove from the freezer and scrape the frozen bits back into the mixture.

Limoncello granita starting to freeze

Limoncello granita starting to freeze

Return to the freezer and repeat every 30 minutes or so until the granita is frozen, with a fluffy, crystalline texture. Spoon into dishes and serve straight away.

Coffee granita

From Sicily. After lemon, this is one of the most popular flavours of granita. It is often served with a dollop of cream on top.

Coffee granita ingredients

Coffee granita ingredients

  • 150 g sugar
  • 500 ml water
  • 4 cups espresso coffee
  1. Make a syrup by heating the water and sugar until it starts to boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the coffee. Allow to cool.
  3. Put into a freezer proof container and place in the freezer.
  4. Take it out of the freezer every hour or so and whisk it to break up the larger ice crystals.
  5. When it is fully frozen it is ready.
Coffee granita finished dish

Coffee granita finished dish

Lemon granita

Granita di limone. From Sicily. This is a very easy dessert. A granita is similar to a sorbet, but the texture is rougher and more grainy. The quantities are only a guide because it depends on how sweet your lemons are and on how sweet you like your desserts. Feel free to add more sugar or more lemons. As the zest is an important part of this recipe you must use unwaxed lemons.

Lemon granita ingredients

Lemon granita ingredients

  • 4 large lemons
  • 150 g sugar
  • 1 l water
  1. Cut the zest from the lemons. Juice the lemons
  2. Make a syrup by heating the water and sugar until it starts to boil.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and zest. Leave to steep for about half an hour.
  4. Strain into a freezer proof container and place in the freezer. Take it out of the freezer every hour or so and whisk it to break up the larger ice crystals.
  5. When it is fully frozen it is ready.

    Lemon granita finished dish

    Lemon granita finished dish

Mascarpone cream

Crema al mascarpone. This is a Pugliese take on tiramisu. I don’t often make dessert, so I think I need a bit of practice getting it to ‘look pretty’ :-)  It tasted nice though. A good way to use up all that leftover chocolate after Easter. Serves 4

mascapone cream ingredients

mascapone cream ingredients

  •   1      egg
  •   6      tablespoons  sugar
  •   100 grams  mascarpone cheese
  •   50   grams  dark chocolate
  •   4      ladyfinger biscuits
  •           espresso coffee
  1. Remove the mascarpone from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Soak the biscuits in the coffee and put them in a dish which is just big enough to take them in a single layer.
  3. Separate the eggs and beat the yolk together with the sugar until it is well incorporated.
  4. Beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks
  5. Fold the egg white into the yolk/sugar mixture.
  6. Beat the mascarpone until it’s smooth and then fold it into the egg mix. Divide the mixture into 2 equal portions.
  7. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie and fold into one portion of the mascarpone mixture.
  8. Cover the biscuit first with a layer of the plain mascarpone and then with the chocolate.
  9. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving
    Mascapone cream finished dish

    Mascapone cream finished dish

This dish will keep in the fridge for up to a day