Sunday, February 19, 2006

L'avventura delle bugie

A few days ago my Italian friend Marco and I were speaking about some food-related topic, and since we couldn't really agree on something, he invited me to an interesting competition: 'La gara delle frappe'. Now, if you want to look for the meaning of the single words, you can use this very useful dictionary. But I doubt you'll find 'frappe'.. My mom didn't know about it either!! In fact, frappe is a type of sweet that people from Rome make for Mardi Gras. In Piemonte, my region, we call something very similar with another name: 'bugie'. Basically, this dessert is made all throughout Italy, but is called in many different ways. Bugie, frappe, fritole, chiacchiere, grostoi.. a lot of names for a similar concept - but obviously, with slight variations that were the reason of the 'competition'. Next Saturday, before Lent starts, we will bring this dessert to a party at his house. Everyone will try to make those typical of their own region, and we should establish which type is the best. :)

Unfortunately, I never made bugie before. So, I asked for help to my blog-friend Comida, that you already know by now. She wrote for me three different recipes, of bugie, grostoi, and castagnole, that are variations on the theme, and belong to her mother's or friend's tradition. If you can read Italian, here they are.

As soon as I read them, I felt the need to try at least one recipe :) - I chose the recipe of Mrs. Clara's bugie.. This recipe calls for
500 gr. farina = about one pound of flour
30 gr. olio oliva = 2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tuorli = 2 egg yolks
1 bicchiere vino bianco secco = 1 glass of dry white wine
2 cucchiai zucchero a velo vanigliato = 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
2 pizzichi sale = 2 pinches of salt
1 bustina lievito = 1 tbsp baking powder
Basically, you mix together all the ingredients and you have your dough. Then you have to make it into really thin sheets, cut it into sort of rectangular shapes, and fry the pieces in a good oil, like peanut oil.

My problem was that I didn't have white wine, but still, I really wanted to make them that night!! So, I opted for a mixture of whiskey and the juice of a fresh orange. The consistency seemed fine, so I left the dough rest for half an hour (this was suggested in another version of the reciipe) and then began to work it.

This was really interesting.. to make thin sheets, you need to use a pasta machine. My mom gave me one last time I was in Italy ('I never use it, maybe you will, have it..'). So I tried it! This machine belonged to my mom's grandmother :) :)
So, I was very excited about this piece of history in my hands..

The whole thing was more complicated than I expected, because the machine needs to be clamped, and you need a table with a corner to be able to do that, or otherwise, you need some stable piece of wood or something to clamp between the machine and the table.. In fact, for some reason, the handle is longer than the height of the whole machine, and you need to have it on a corner in order to be able to turn it.. I'm not sure if modern machines have this problem, but this turned out to be a serious issue for my bugie attempt. :)
In fact, at first I tried with some books. This didn't work.. The books moved away very quickly. The final solution I could came out with was this one:

Basically, I clamped it to the handle of a chair. This turned out to be actually quite comfortable, because I could sit while I was making the bugie. :)

Using 'La Novecento Torino' (not sure if the name refers to the fact that it was made in 1900.. :) ) was actually a lot of fun, after I figured out a few details.. like how I should begin with some larger thickness, then turn a little screw and made the dough pass through a thinner and thinner space, to make it really thin, in the end.
My pieces of dough had all sort of funny shapes, but I guess it was good as a first attempt with la Novecento :)

Then, the next fun part: frying. Unfortunately, I didn't have peanut oil. I had some canola oil, that I heard is good for frying. Since I had no idea about what canola was (we don't use it in Italy at all), I went to look for it. This website has some information. Looks like the seed was created in the 1970s! To be honest, the smell of peanut oil is much better than canola oil, so I think next time I'll make bugie, I'll use the real peanut oil.
Anyway, after a few trials, I found out the optimal temperatures and timing for cooking (high and fast, respectively. :) ). After frying them, you have to cover the bugie in powdered sugar.
Here is an example of what came out - bad picture, but I always cook at night.. there's never enough light:

They looked nicer than in this picture, but anyway, they were really good! I ate quite a few of them while I was making them... I thought maybe that's the origin of the name 'bugie' (which means 'lies'): you will lie after making them, saying that you prepared only the amount that you actually presented to your guests.. and not mentioning the half that you ate already. :) (qualcuno ha qualche altra idea sull'origine del nome??)

After making two pans of them, I was impressed by the amount of oil that they were sucking, so I decided I would try to bake the rest of them. In fact, I remembered that I had some very good baked bugie.
After burning a few of them, I found out that the best temperature was very high (450), but the time was even shorter than for frying them (about one-two minutes for the first side and 30 sec-1 min after flipping them).
These are some of the baked bugie:

The taste was very nice. You could actually taste a little orange in them, whereas you couldn't in the fried ones. They were a bit too dry, though. I think next time I bake them, I'll make a special dough for them and I'll either add more oil or put some butter in it.

Anyway, it was really nice to make them, I had a lot of fun and I was impressed at the idea that I used la Novecento for the first time, and that I could make something so cool by frying (I never do). I brought the bugie to Lucas's parents and sister the day after.. they were finished in a few minutes, even though we just had had a humongous lunch. :)

Next time, I'll try to make some of them filled with jam (that's a possible variation), and some castagnole. I think my next guinea-pigs will be the girls from the choir that I meet next Thursday.. I need still one experiment before the competition!! :) :)

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