Snowflakes & Chatter
Admittedly I am late in posting these, but with all this new-found time on our hands it seems a good time to catch up with recipe-testing and writing.
Chiacchiere, ‘little gossips’ or ‘chatter’ are a classic sweet of Carnevale. They are essentially a fried pasta dough, enriched with a little white wine (or in this case Vernaccia), rolled out thinly, cut in random fashion and then deep-fried and dusted with snowdrifts of icing sugar.
The Vernaccia gives them a deliciously almondy note, but if you can’t find it you can use sherry or Vinsanto (check your granny’s cupboards) or just plain old white wine.
The true appeal of these (apart from that irresistibly fatty flavour of deep-fry) is their texture. They are light-as-a-feather, melt-in-the-mouth, crumbly-as-crumble and as flakey-as-your-friends, and all the other hyphenated good things you can think of. They provide a perfect embodiment of that nicely onomatopoeic Italian word ‘friabile’ which means crumbly but in an even better, flakier way. They also leave your whole body dusted with a light powdering of sugar like a fond memory. What more can you ask for, really.
You can serve these on their own as a snack, or with coffee, or even better, with little glasses of Vernaccia/Vinsanto and a big bowl of whipped, sweetened mascarpone for communal dunking. Just don’t expect to be moving quickly any time soon after.
500g plain flour
75g cold, unsalted butter
A pinch of salt
40g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
around 70ml Vernaccia/Vinsanto/Grappa/white wine
Oil, for deep frying.
Icing sugar, for dusting.
Measure the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and rub it into the flour as for a crumble. Rub it in well, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and stir, then make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and alcohol. Mix well to form a soft dough (at this point, if it looks too dry, add a drop or two more of alcohol).
Knead the dough well with your hands on a clean surface for around 20 minutes until completely smooth. Leave it to rest (covered with a tea towel) whilst you set up your rolling station.
Using a pasta roller, or a simple rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is 10p thickness (a millimetre and a half or so). You may need to dust things with a little flour as you roll.
Using a ridged pasta cutter (or a simple knife if you don’t have one) cut the dough into random, rag-like strips.
Heat your oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches around 175 degrees. Fry the strips a few at a time, and drain them on kitchen paper.
When they are cool, dust them liberally with icing sugar.