Tuscan CENCI are very delicious fried strips of sweet dough, making them into a delectable, traditional treat. Cenci are made throughout Italy for the festivity of Carnevale. Although every region in Italy has a specific name for them, in Florence they are called CENCI, which literally translates to RAGS. Deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar they become a finger licking good must have.
Forty days before the celebration of Easter, Carnevale marks the last day of festivity before the restrictions of Lent begin. Children and even adults dress up in costumes and masquerades as confetti fly in the air and cover the ground. Mischief is common during this day as the saying clearly declares: "A carnevale ogni scherzo vale" - Anything goes at Carnevale. What a fun and delicious treat to have on such a day as this! Lets get started!
Place the flour on a clean work surface. With the help of your hand create a well in the center of the mound. Make sure to mix in the baking soda into the flour as we forgot to show that step in the video.
Crack the eggs in a bowl and beat them. Pour the beaten eggs into the flour well, as shown in the video.
Add the zest of the lemon (or orange if you so choose), olive oil, salt and sugar to the well. From the edges of the well, begin to slowly incorporate some of the flour with the help of a fork.
Place the butter, as well as the Vin Santo into the well. With a bench scraper, bring together the wet and dry ingredients.
Once the flour is mostly incorporated, knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth. If not smooth, the dough may need a few minutes of rest before kneading again.
When the dough is smooth, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling it out.
Place the lard over the stovetop to heat. With a food grade thermometer make sure the temperature reaches 175°-180°C - 347°-356°F before frying. Do not exceed this temperature.
After the dough has rested, roll it out on a floured work surface into a round or rectangle of about 1-1.5mm. The stretched dough really must be PAPER THIN.
With a pastry wheel cutter, begin to cut the dough into strips, and place them onto a floured tray or a floured tea towel.
Once the lard or oil has reached temperature, carefully transfer a few strips into the oil, allowing them to brown on each side for about 15 seconds per side (maybe less if they begin to brown sooner).
Once each side has lightly browned, remove from the lard and place on absorbent paper to catch the excess fat.
Place the Cenci on a serving platter and generously dust them with powered sugar. They are so delicious as soon as they are fried, but if by any crazy chance they are not eaten immediately, they are still incredibly good throughout the day. Enjoy!