Chiacchiere, Sweet Carnival Fritters
“Chiacchiere”,” bugie”, “cenci”, “frappe”, “sfrappole” and “galani” are the regional variations of the same sweet Carnival fried pastry.
Historians maintain present-day chiacchiere, sweet Carnival fritters, were created to celebrate Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival, very similar to Carnival, occurring in December. On such an occasion, women would use eggs and flour to make what it was then known as fricitlia, a pastry deep-fried in lard. As Christianity set in, chiacchiere were produced in huge quantities, so that they would last throughout Lent for the Easter celebrations in the streets. A Neapolitan legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy decided to engage with her guests in an informal conversation (chiacchiere in Italian) and demanded the royal cook Raffaele Esposito create a dessert for the occasion. Raffaele prepared stripes of sweet fried pastry and named them chiacchiere.
How to make chiacchiere
Chiacchiere come in the shape of saw-toothed stripes of pastry made with eggs and flour and then deep-fried in oil, or baked in the oven for a healthier version. They are then dusted with confectioner’s sugar or decorated with honey, chocolate, alchermes – a red-coloured liqueur typical of Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Sicily. They can also be shaped like twisted ribbons. In comparison with other types of pastry, they can last for weeks, when stored in cool and dry place
Chiacchiere, bugie, cenci, frappe, sfrappole, galani, frittole, lattughe and crostoli are a few of the names by which the sweet Carnival fritters are known in the different regions of Italy. The core ingredients are the same and in the same quantities. However, it is not unusual to find recipes with liqueurs, cream, butter, spices and chocolate. They are known as chiacchiere in Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, Lazio, Apulia, Umbria, Milan, Parma and Sassari. The Tuscan recipe is called cenci and has Vin Santo in it. The name may depend on the different shape of the Carnival fritters, which can be found in other parts of Europe. In France, for instance, they are known as oreillettes (“small ears”) in Languedoc, Provence and Rouergue, whereas in the area of the ancient Duchy of Savoy (bordering with Italy), they are called bugnes (related to beignet) and merveilles (“wonders”).