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Florentine Rags (Cenci)
Jan 28th, 2010 by

Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.

Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.

Here’s another recipe from the classic 19th century Italian Cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi.

Cenci are a Florentine winter treat, made from Epiphany to Mardi Gras. This deep-fried pastry looks like little rags and tastes a little like fried dough, but not as heavy and never greasy.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • All-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • Butter (2 tbsp.)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (1/3 cup, plus more for dusting the finished cenci)
  • Large eggs (2)
  • Brandy (1 tbsp.)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (Optional; 1/4 cup or less; just enough to make dough)
  • Vegetable oil or lard (enough for deep frying)

I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.

I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.

What I did:

Making the Dough: Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl, making a fairly stiff dough. You may have to add a little water to incorporate all of the ingredients. Knead the dough thoroughly on a lighted floured surface. Add a little flour if dough comes out too soft. Shape into a ball and flour it. Let it rest, covered, for about an hour.

After it rests, the dough will much softer and easier to roll out. (If the dough formed a crust while it sat, knead it a little before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a thin rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick).

Use a pastry wheel (or knife) to cut it into strips as long as your palm and two fingers wide.

Twist and crinkle the strips and then fry them in the hot oil or lard.

Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to catch the extra oil.

Transfer to a clean plate and when cool, dust them with confectioners’ sugar.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Emancipation Proclamation Breakfast Cake
Jan 18th, 2010 by

This is quick and easy to make, but joyfully messy with blueberries and honey.

This is quick and easy to make, but joyfully messy with blueberries and honey.

I believe that food can play a role in people learning and appreciating each other’s culture. And with that thought in mind, I’m celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday by making something from one of my “go-to” cookbooks: The Black Family Reunion Cookbook.

This is Emancipation Proclamation Breakfast Cake. An older cookbook published in 1958 with a nearly identical recipe states, “The Emancipation Proclamation New Year’s Day 1863 is celebrated in all parts of the United States.”

However, The Black Family Reunion Cookbook published in 1991 has a note from a woman in Virginia who writes, “In my home state we have commemorated the Emancipation Proclamation on the 8th of August…with basket dinners. Former slaves and descendants of slaves would come from around the country for this grand day of celebration.”

Of course, none of this describes what this pastry tastes like.  So here’s my attempt to describe its delights: If a blueberry muffin and a honey bun had a baby, this would be it.

Ingredients/Shopping List:
  • Butter Flavored Crisco (1/3 cup)
  • Sugar (1/3 cup)
  • Large Egg (1)
  • All-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • Baking powder (1 tbsp.)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp.)
  • Cinnamon (1/4 tsp.)
  • Milk (1/3 cup)
  • Blueberries, fresh or frozen (1 1/2 cups)
  • Honey (1/4 cup)
  • Grated orange peel (from 1 orange)
  • Grated lemon peel (from 1 lemon)
What I did:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 9-inch pie plate.
Combine Butter Flavored Crisco and sugar in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until creamy.
Beat in 1 egg.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in another bowl. Add alternately with milk to creamed mixture.
Fold in the blueberries
Pat dough out to 1/2 thickness on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into nine 3-inch rounds.
Place one round in the center of the pie plate. Arrange the other eight tilted and overlapping around the center dough circle.
Spread honey over the top. Sprinkle the orange and lemon peel on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the dough in the center is thoroughly baked. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Find more recipes in the Food section.
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