When you notice that everywhere you step on outside your house seems to have developed colored spots, it doesn't mean that the cleaners left on a holiday altogether nor there's a new city-wide fad of polka-dotted flooring. It just means that Carnevale (Carnival or Mardi Gras) is just around the corner.
This is also my reminder that it's time to hit the stores and do my share of the Carnevale festivities. Take my kids out costume hunting along with the other hundred parents and kids looking for the same thing. Princess and action hero costumes.
Children put on their costumes and start throwing stelle filanti (streamers) & coriandoli (confetti) everywhere. You can't blame them. It's the only time of the year when they can litter as much as they want and go around masked with their favorite action heroes and princesses of every kind. And the smaller ones are dressed as baby veggies, bees or flowers. I spared Sofia that vegetable or flower phase and made her go straight to a princess with a hat taller than her. And I also have the twin of Zorro at home prancing around with his cape and sword.
When Carnevale arrives, my thoughts dwell on the plethora of pastries that go with this period. Every region in Italy boasts of having one better than the other so in the end, you don't really know what to choose because they are all good. Try going to a pasticceria (pastry shop) and you will see what I mean.
There is futility in calling each pastry with its proper name, I've noticed. It seems that one region can have a Carnevale pastry that another region can have too but with another name. Over the years, I've witnessed and participated in endless friendly debates about the proper names of Carnevale cakes and their respective origin. Conclusion: We all end up at the starting point. No one gains a point nor no one loses any. We pick up on the same topic the following year.
Here, I have the Sicilian puff pastry fritters. They are made during the Carnevale festivities and on the Day of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Day) which is every 19th of March, for that its complete name is sfingi di San Giuseppe. That is the day when Italy celebrates Father's Day because St. Joseph is the father of Jesus. It is also the day when everyone named Giuseppe and Giuseppa celebrate their Name Days. In all the days of the calendar, all 365 days of it, a feast of a saint is celebrated and you can celebrate it also following your saint's name. It's a mini-celebration for anyone whose name is associated with a saint. You receive small gifts, greetings and in return, you treat your friends to a round of coffee or cocktails. Do you know when your Name Day is?
Even if these fritters come from one region, there are different kinds too, depending on the town it comes from. Usually, it differs with the ingredients and the garnish. My mother-in-law's version is from her town, done with eggs and drizzled with honey. They can also be filled up with ricotta or chocolate. Here, I have the basic one that I find so addictive. It's soft and fluffy and goes so well with honey. If you use good honey, it makes a great difference.
You can click here on the post I did last year about the Italian Carnevale.
Sfingi, Sicilian Puff Pastry Fritters
About 6 servings
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/2 liter water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 300 grams flour (tipo "00")
- 6 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (lievito in polvere)
- oil for deep frying (I used sunflower oil.)
- Combine water, sugar & butter in a saucepan on medium fire. Put down the flame when it boils. Pour all the flour quickly and stir immediately. Keep on stirring, making sure it doesn't stick to the pan. Stir until it becomes one solid mass. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool down to room temperature.
- When the dough reaches room temperature, add eggs one at a time and mix.
- Add baking powder. Mix.
- Let it rest for an hour.
- Prepare your pot with a lot of oil for deep frying.
- When it's very hot, you're ready to fry. Get a spoonful of the mixture and with the help on another spoon, push the mixture down to the oil.
- Serve hot or warm with honey.