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Chiacchiere – or cenci

11 September 2006
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Chiacchiere - or cenci
These brittle leaves of fried pasta are popular under different names throughout Italy, but they originate in Milan. The name translates roughly as "chattering", which gives an idea as to how they are meant to be eaten - with coffee, a liqueur and a good natter. By comparison with French petits fours secs, they are relatively cheap, quite easy to make and so long as they remain dry in an airtight container, they keep well. ### INGREDIENTS (makes more than 150-about 50 portions) 1kg "00" pasta flour 100g melted butter 200g caster sugar Grated zest of 1-2 untreated lemons 6 eggs 60ml vin santo For cooking 1 litre frying oil for about 50 pieces For garnish Icing sugar ### METHOD To make the dough, blend the first six ingredients together in a food processor. Work them into a ball and knead thoroughly until you have a dense, tight pasta dough. Rest. Cut dough into about eight pieces (1). Run each piece through a pasta-making machine. Reduce the thickness gradually, dusting dough lightly with flour between each roll (2). Take dough down as thin as it will go - about "1" on most machines (3). You'll have a ribbon about 1.5m long and 15cm wide from each piece. Cut the ribbon across its length to obtain strips 15 x 6cm (4). In each one, cut two parallel slashes, to help the dough to cook more evenly. Heat oil in a wok or broad, cast-iron pan filled to a depth of about 4cm. It's ready when fizzy bubbles form around a piece of orange peel dipped into it (5). This is lower than the first frying for chips. Keep oil at this temperature by regulating heat underneath. Fry strips of dough, about five at a time (6). They take about two minutes to cook and need to be turned over as soon as undersides have coloured to a pale brown. Drain chiacchiere on a clean cloth and cool (7). To serve, pile them in layers on a large plate, dusting each layer with icing sugar (8).
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Step 1: cut dough
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Step 2: dust dough
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Step 3: thin dough
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Step 4: cut into strips
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Step 5: heat oil
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Step 6: fry strips
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Step 7: drain and cool
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Step 8: dust with icing sugar
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