‘Semel in anno licet insanireʼ is a Latin way of saying that means: once a year, it’s okay to go crazy – and which better time to do that than just before the beginning of Lent?
Throughout continental Europe, big and colourful parades celebrate Carnival as a joyous break from everyday worries and duties. Just like Easter and Lent, Carnival falls on a different period each year; in most Italian cities artisans rush to prepare big paper-pulp floats, although no-one can compete with the gigantic ones made in Viareggio (Tuscany). Those floats get to be more than 20 meters high!
The big parade in Venice is famous all over the world and the typical Venetian masks are one of the symbols of the Italian Carnival – that is, along with chiacchiere. Literally called “chit-chats”, the chiacchiere are the Italian version of Angel Wings and they are known with various names throughout the whole of Italy: bugie (lies, in Piedmont), frappe (in Lazio), lattughe (lettuce, in Brescia and Mantova cities), just to name a few.
Although classically the chiacchiere would be deep fried, we opted for a lighter version by baking them in the oven. One can often find chiacchiere covered in all sorts of chocolate and full of sprinkles, but we prefer them simple: garnished with just a bit of powdered sugar.
Serve: 4-6 | Preparation: 10 mins + 30 mins for the dough| Cooking time: 10-15 mins
- Italian cake & pastry flour or white flour: 250 g
- Butter, unsalted: 25g
- White granulated sugar: 20 g
- Vanilla extract or vanilla seeds: 8 ml
- Eggs: 2
- Baking powder: 2 tsp
- Lemon zest: of about ½ lemon
- Powdered sugar: as needed
- A pinch of salt
Tip: Take the butter out of the fridge about 1 hour before making the dough: it will be a lot easier to mix the butter evenly with the other ingredients.
Thoroughly clean your work surface and put the flour on it in a small heap. Use your fingers to make a small well on top of the heap and place in it the granulated sugar, the vanilla, the eggs, the baking powder, the lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
Cut the butter in small pieces. Gently beat up the eggs in the well, then add the butter and start mixing the ingredients with a fork. Knead the dough with your hands until its texture is smooth and homogeneous. Roll up the dough in a small ball and wrap it in clingfilm. Leave it to rest for half an hour.
Preheat the oven at 180°C.
Use a pasta machine or a rolling pin to flatten out a small chunk of dough; the dough should not be thicker than 2-3 mm. Use a dough cutter to cut out rectangles that are about 10 cm in lenght and 5 cm in width; make at least another cut inside the rectangle, in the centre, as shown in the picture. If you prefer, you can also make two diagonal cuts instead. Lay the rectangles of dough on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
Spray some water on the chiacchiere right before putting the tray in the oven, then bake for up to 15 minutes or until they are cooked through.
Leave the chiacchiere to cool down before garnishing them with powdered sugar.