MAKES 6 1/2 to 7 DOZEN
One of the most familiar treats in the Nannini Pastry Shop display cases are mounds of crispy sugared strips called cenci, which we made at home and called rags, but cenci sounds more elegant. These randomly cut pieces of orange or lemon scented dough were fried and then coated in confectioner's sugar. In Tuscany at Carnivale time this sweet treat is made everywhere and everyone has their fill before the austere Lenten season of denial begins. A pasta machine is perfect for thinning the dough.
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons rum, orange liqueur or brandy
Grated zest of 2 large oranges or lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 cups canola oil for frying
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, butter, eggs, rum, zest, and salt. Stir in the flour and then use your hands to create a smooth ball of dough. Or make the dough in a food processor. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for an hour in the refrigerator.
Divide the dough into four pieces and work with one at a time.
To roll the dough out by hand, use a rolling pin and roll out each piece into a rectangle no more than 1/8-inch thick. Use a pastry wheel to cut irregular shaped pieces about 5½-inches long and 2-inches wide. Make a 1-inch slit in the center of each piece but do hot cut through to the ends. Place the pieces on clean towels until all the dough is used.
To thin the dough using a pasta machine, flatten the dough slightly with a rolling pin, then lightly dust it with flour and thin it in the machine using the roller section. I thin the dough to the highest number on my machine, which is 7, because I like my cenci thin, but adjust for the thickness you prefer. Cut into strips as described above.
Heat 6 cups of vegetable oil to 375F. in a deep fryer or in a heavy clad pot. (Test the temperature of the oil with a candy thermometer if using a heavy clad pot.) Fry the cenci a few at a time until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels.
While still warm, place the cenci in a clean paper bag with the confectioner's sugar. Close the top of the bag and shake gently to coat the cenci.
These are best served the day they are made. Just try to eat only one.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.
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