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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

epiphany and befana

January 5th is an important night for Italian children: The Befana, a frightful witch, will mount her broom and fly through the sky to fill their stockings, with candy if they've been good, and with coal if they've not. Though now the kids just get their stockings on Epiphany, until quite recently they received almost all of their gifts on the 12th day of Christmas. If you think about it, the practice of giving a gift on Epiphany makes sense,since that's when the Magi arrived at the manger. And the Befana? There are a number of stories; according to one, she refused the Magi hospitality, then changed her mind and tried to follow them. But they were gone, so she still seeks the Christ Child every Epiphany.

Her arrival is often celebrated with the first batch of a traditional Carnival pastry known by a variety of names, including Cenci (rags) in Florence and Frappe in Rome; Ada Boni, who borrows Pellegrino Artusi's recipe, uses the more poetic "Lover's Knots." They are very pretty when carefully made, so she is probably right. To make a batch you will need:
see also...

The Legend of Old Befana : An Italian Christmas Story

Love Knots
2 1/4 cups (225 grams) flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup (35 grams) confectioner's sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon brandy
A pinch of salt
More confectioner's sugar for dusting

Make a fairly stiff dough with these ingredients, kneading it thoroughly, and adding more flour if it comes out too soft. Flour it and let it rest, covered. Then roll it out into an eighth-of-an-inch-thick sheet, and use a serrated pastry wheel to cut it into strips as long as your palm and two fingers wide. Make a cut down the middle of each cencio (so as to obtain two strips joined at the ends), twist the side strips without breaking them, fry them in hot oil or lard, and dust them with confectioner's sugar when they're cool. This recipe is sufficient to make a platterful. Should the dough have formed a crust while it sat, knead it again before you roll it out.


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