Frappe, Rome’s Carnival Treats. Frappe, Chiacchiere, Crostoli, Bugie, Cenci, Sfrappole, these are some of the different names of these typical Italian Carnival treats. Thin ribbons of slightly sweetened and aromatic dough, deep fried until light and crispy, finished with a very generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Song of the day: Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz
Making and eating Frappe, Rome’s Carnival Treats represent one of the ‘sacred’ annual rites that no Roman can miss. Right after the Epiphany, on January 6th, not only frappe, but also castagnole, bignè, zeppole, and all the luxurious sweet treats start to appear in every pastry shop, cafe, bakery, grocery store, and house. There is this aroma, in the air, a mix of frying oil, sugar, and liqueur or wine.
Carnevale, Carnival, a look back at the origin
February in Italy is the month of Carnevale. Each city is invaded by masks and confetti, lights and colors that create a unique party atmosphere. The origins of the Carnival are very old and trace back to the Roman Saturnalia that were celebrated in honor of the new year. A party time characterized by an indulgence of food, drinks, and sensual pleasures, granted as an outlet to the less wealthy classes.
Key elements of Carnevale
Sweet treats, masks, costumes, parades, and lots of fun are the key elements of the Carnival celebrations. The Carnival sweets are recipes of the popular tradition. For the most part, they are deep-fried, made of few and tasty ingredients. It requires a big effort, this time of the year, trying to avoid fried foods, lol.
The most important Carnival days are Fat Thursday, Giovedì Grasso, and Mardi Gras, Martedì Grasso, the last day of Carnevale. The day after starts the period of abstinence and fasting of Lent. This year, Mardi Gras is March 5th.
The origin of Frappe
The origin of frappe is very ancient and starts at the time of the Saturnalia (which is the pagan festival precursor of the Carnival). The Roman women used to make rectangles of thin dough that they deep fried in pork fat. The dough was a mixture of flour and water, rolled very thin, then deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. Very similar to today’s frappe.
Frappe are common in all regions of Italy even though they have different names and slightly variable ingredients and shapes. Frappe, Chiacchiere, Crostoli, Bugie, Cenci, Sfrappole, these are some of the different names of these typical Italian Carnival treats.
A few ingredients for a lot of flavor
Very few are the ingredients to make Roman frappe:
- flour (I used type 1, unrefined, stone ground flour)
- eggs, organic free-range
- sugar, just 1 tablespoon, I used granulated sugar (but raw cane sugar works)
- a pinch of salt
- the zest of an organic lemon
- grappa liqueur (or anise liqueur, or white wine)
That’s all. No oil, no butter, no baking powder. The secret in making them so light and crispy is rolling them very thin and deep frying them in e.v.o. oil or peanut oil, the only vegetable oil we use for deep frying.
When I’m in Rome, during Carnevale, my mom and dad, as always, help to make Frappe. I make the dough, then with my mom, we roll pieces of dough with the pasta machine to thin sheets, cut strips of dough with the fluted ravioli wheel while my dad is at the frying station. It’s like we’re all working in an assembly line, waiting for the first frappe to be ready. Then, we don’t waste a moment, we dust the light and crispy ribbons with icing (powdered) sugar and we eat them warm.
There is a satisfaction and a joyful pleasure when eating the Carnival frappe: when you take a bite, they crumble and shatter leaving you with the crumbs and powdered sugar all over your face and clothes. And all you can do is laugh about it, take another bite, and then reach for another one.
Fragrant, light, crumbly, these are the Frappe. Very thin, puffed up, almost ethereal. You can taste the lemon zest, but you hardly taste the grappa liqueur, that only contributes to the lovely fragrance and crumbliness. They represent the joyful atmosphere of Carnival, the lightness of these feast days.
Song of the day: Feel Good Inc – GorillazPrint
Frappe, Rome’s Carnival Treats. Thin ribbons of slightly sweetened and aromatic dough, deep-fried until light and crispy, finished with a very generous dusting of powdered sugar.
- 250 g flour (I used type 1, less refined than 00)
- 2 eggs, organic free-range
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 organic lemon, the grated zest
- a pinch of salt
- 10 Tbsp (60 g) grappa liqueur (or anise liqueur, or white wine)
- 1 lt peanut oil for frying (I also use e.v.o. oil)
- icing (powdered) sugar, to decorate
- I did it the old way, starting with a wood board where I put the flour in a mound and made a well in the center.
- Add the eggs, the sugar, the grated lemon zest, the pinch of salt. Mix with a fork, then slowly add the grappa, mixing and pulling in the flour with the fork until a raggedy dough forms.
- Work the dough with your hands for a few minutes until nice and smooth. Make a ball and let it rest on the wood board for about half an hour, covered with a towel or wrapped in plastic.
- After the resting time, dust the wood board with flour then cut the dough ball in smaller pieces with a knife.
- Roll out each piece of dough with the help of a pasta machine (or a rolling pin) as you would do to make lasagna sheets. Try to make it as thin as possible, 2-3 mm.
- With a fluted ravioli wheel, cut the dough sheets in stripes more or less wide and long, depending on your taste. Repeat until all the dough is used. The strips are now ready to be fried and turned into frappe.
- Heat the peanut oil in a large pan. Make sure the heat is neither too high nor too low usually between 360 degree F. When the oil is at the right temperature, add to the pan a few frappe at a time, but not too many it is hard to turn them. Turn them often so as to make them cook evenly and bubble up. Take them out before they are too brown. It is very hard to say a time but turn when they start to turn a light golden color, then take out when they are golden brown on both sides.
- Drain with a slotted spoon and arrange on an absorbent paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- Finish with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Like other deep-fried foods, frappe are at their best the day they are made, then they lose crispiness.