Today is Martedì Grasso, in Italy. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, as you want to call it. It's the last day of the Carnival (Carnevale). Carnevale is to Italians what Halloween is to North Americans.
Carnevale is a cheerful time of the year. Winter is giving way to spring, the air is mild and fragrant with the first blossoms. Kids are eager to get dressed in costumes and to throw coriandoli (confetti paper). In Venice there is the most famous masquerade, but everywhere in Italy you'll find the same atmosphere.
As a kid I loved dressing up in costumes and most of all I loved the sweets that my mother baked for us this time of the year. I still have her handwritten recipe on an old excercise book. This year I am lucky, because even though I am far away from my love, my husband, I can be with her and we can bake together, like old times.
The sweets that we are going to make are called Castagnole. You can find so many different version (and also different names), from north to south Italy: hard, soft, baked, fried, with liquor, raisins, filled with custard, chocolate or ricotta. Castagna in italian means chestnut, thus the name Castagnole because they resemble chestnuts in their shape.
My mother’s Castagnole are soft and fried and with a lemon scent. They hardly hit the bowl that they’re gone, even before we get the chance to sprinkle them with powder sugar.
200 gr. Flour type 00
100 gr. White sugar
½ package of baking powder
½ glass White wine
the zest of 1 lemon
powder sugar for the topping
vegetable oil (we usually fry with peanut oil) for the frying pan
In a medium bowl mix together the flour, sugar, eggs, wine, lemon zest and finish with the baking soda. The consistency is runny and the smell is already delicious.
Start a frying pan on the stove with the vegetable oil. When it has reached the temperature, pour a scoop of dough (I used the ice cream scoop) and you will see that if the oil is hot they will start swelling and turning right away. Cook them for a few minutes, until they're golden brown, but make sure they're cooked all the way through. Dust them with powder sugar and enjoy!