Chacchiere (pronounced kjakˈkjɛːre) is a classic sweet Italians prepare in February during Carnival time. They have different names depending on the regions: they are called chiacchiere in Lombardia, frappe and sfrappole in Emilia Romagna, crostoli in Trentino and Veneto. And, again, bugie, nun ribbons, knots of love. In Abruzzo we generally call them chiacchiere, the word in Italian also means chit-chat, chatter, gossip.
Chiacchiere are a very crumbly dessert, based on few simple ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a small quantity of spirits – Liquore Strega or white grappa (though I don’t use it when making chiacchiere for the kids). The dough is obtained by working the ingredients together and pulling them in a thin sheet, then it is cut into strips or squares and afterwards fried in oil. They are served sprinkled with powdered sugar. Their shape, with two sharp central cuts, makes the chiacchiere the unmistakable symbol of Italian Carnival.
Six basic rules to know by heart to make perfect chiacchiere
1. Butter should be soft or almost melted.
2. The dough must rest for at least 30 minutes.
3. Use a pasta machine (if you have one) to roll the dough.
4. Folding and running the dough through pasta roller a couple of times is THE SECRET for those magic airy bubbles you see.
5. To fry correctly, use vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil) at a temperature of 180° C (between 350-360F). If the temperature is not hot enough chiacchiere will absorb too much oil and become soggy. If the oil is extra hot (burning/smoking) it will give an unpleasant burned flavor the the pastry.
6. Do not cover the freshly fried chiacchiere because the steam would make them soft (they must remain crumbly and crispy).
- 300 gr white flour, plus more as needed
- 50 gr white sugar
- 50 gr softnened butter
- 2 eggs + 1 yolk
- 30 gr white grappa (alternatively dry wine)
- Peanuts vegetable oil for frying
- Powdered sugar for garnish
In a large mixing bowl (I use a wooden pastry board) sift flour, add sugar and softened/melted butter. Then add lightly beaten eggs, mix everything with a fork. Add Liquore Strega or grappa to make make chiacchiere crispy and airy. Knead the dough with your hands until smooth, if too firm just add a tablespoon of water or warm milk.
Wrap the dough in a plastic film and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
Once the dough is “rested”, cut off a piece and sprinkle it with some flour. Roll through the pasta machine. The best thickness setting on pasta machine to cut chiacchiere is on 5-6. If using a hand roller (like I do), roll the dough, fold and roll again until thinner. This helps create a bubbly texture when the strips are deep fried.
Using a pastry wheel cut the dough into strips (approximately 3×6 cm) scored in the center. In a deep pan or fryer preheat vegetable oil possibly using a kitchen thermometer to measure the right temperature. If you don’t have one then try frying a small piece of the dough, if it comes up floating and bubbly in less than 3 seconds the oil is ready. Once oil is heated turn the temperature on medium low to prevent oil from burning.
Fry chiacchiere for a few minutes on each side, once they’re lightly brown discard on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Using a laddle or a large spoon, scoop some oil from the pan and pour it over the dough to obtain the perfect golden color and zero oil inside pastries! Place fried chiacchiere on a serving plate and generously dust with powdered sugar.
February is the perfect time to discover Abruzzo’s most famous Carnival Festival of Francaville established in 1956. Abruzzo’s popular Carnival parade was the result of the work and passion of a few people who wanted to animate the city during winter: the first allegorical scene was decidedly sketchy, showing the king of Carnevale with a group of volunteer nurses, a flying saucer surrounded by Martians, the funeral of the Carnival king.
In 1958 the Neapolitan painter Caiati created the Carnival manifesto. New editions followed with great enthusiasm until the ’70s when it suffered a tremendous decline due to the political and administrative uncertainty that the city suffered for about ten years. In 1981 the Carnival celebrated its 25the edition returning to the splendor of the golden years and becoming The Carnival of Abruzzo. In 1995 (40th edition) there was the twinning with the Venice Carnival, celebrated with a magnificent parade and a solemn procession composed of 45 figures.
Enjoy Abruzzo Carnival time!
(The chiacchiere recipe I shared above belongs to my mamma and nonna, you can also get inspiration from two of my favourite blogs Italy On My Mind by Paola Bacchia and Domenica Cooks by Domenica Marchetti)
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