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Mary's Chestnut Caveciuni I (Sweet fritters, using roasted chestnuts, walnuts, cocoa and orange zest)
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: San Giuseppe, Carnival and Christmas
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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Calcione, Cacioni, caciu, calcioni, caveciune, caveciuni, cauciune, cauciuni, cauciun', calciume, calciumi, calciune, calciuni, calciuni, caucione, caucioni, caucine, caucini, calzangie, cavazune and cavazuni*

For Pastry Dough
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups flour (or "As much as is needed")
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Magic baking powder

Mary's Chestnut Calciuni
For the filling
1 pound chestnuts [about 25 chestnuts]
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped (optional)

For soaking roasted chestnuts
1 1/2 cups milk

For deep frying
about 2 cups vegetable oil, preferably peanut oil

For dusting
about 1/4 cup icing sugar

*Spellings for this fritter vary from town to town in Molise, depending on the local dialect. The recipe can be known as caveciune, cauciuni, calcioni, calciumi, calciuni, caucioni and/or who knows what else? However, the official spelling for this style of Molisan treat on the world-wide web is (Well, seems to be): "Calcione" (singular form) and "calcioni" (plural form). In other parts of Italy this style of fritter is sometimes known as "ravioli di San Giuseppe" as well as "ravioli dolce," "sweet ravioli." N.B. In present-day Italy, "Calcioni Molisani" often refers to unsweetened ricotta-stuffed fritters rather than chickpea-stuffed sweet fritters. However, prior to World War II, most people living in the Molisan countryside thought of "calconi" as sweet fritters made with chickpeas. Those Italians (and their children) who immigrated to North America in the 1950s still think of "calcioni" as pastries stuffed with chickpeas rather than with ricotta and/or chestnuts.


To make chestnut puree*

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.

2. Using a very sharp knife, score the chestnuts, cutting an x into the skin.

3. Place the chestnuts with the cuts facing up on the baking sheet.

4. Bake for about 25 minutes or until they are soft inside.

5. Peel chestnuts.

6. Using an electric chopper, chop the chestnuts very fine.

7. Place the finely chopped chestnuts in a bowl.

8. Add 1 1/2 cups milk.

9. Place the mixture in the fridge and let it rest for about 2 hours.

*Alternatively, one can score the chestnuts, boil them in water for about 20 minutes, peel them, and then puree them using a sieve or electric grinder. Roasting the chestnuts adds a touch more flavor, but if one wants to simply the process one can simply boil them.

Making the dough

1. Beat eggs.

2. Add oil, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix well.

3. Slowly add flour and work into a soft and malleable dough.

4. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball.

5. Wrap the dough in clear plastic.

6. Let the dough rest for about an hour at room temperature.

To make the filling

1. Remove the roasted chestnuts from the fridge. Pour the milk out of the chestnuts, retaining the liquid.

2. Using an electric blender puree the roasted chestnuts, adding about 1/4 cup of the milk they soaked in (Add a touch more milk if necessary, keeping in mind the mixture should end up looking like a thick paste).

3. Add the walnuts. Mix well.

4. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest (if using). Mix well. The resulting mixture should resemble a thick paste (If the mixture is too thin, add more chestnuts, if it's too thick add a touch more milk).

To shape the pastry dough

1. Remove the clear plastic from one ball of dough.

2. Slice a piece of dough, flour it lightly and then and pass it through the pasta maker, adjusting the settings until the pasta sheet is about 1/6 of an inch thick. N.B. Instead of flouring the wooden board one can place silicon parchment paper and process the dough on the paper. "Chef Elite silicone parchment paper" can be had at dollar shops and it works really well -- actually better than flour. The dough doesn't stick and one doesn't end up with burnt flour in the vegetable oil later on.

3. Using cookie cutters make one or three different types of shapes: squares (2 inches X 2 inches), small circles ( 2 1/2 inch circumference) or large circles for half moons (4 inch circumference). N.B. As it is easier to seal the dough when it is freshly rolled out, one can make a few panels, then proceed to cut out the desired shapes. After that, one can add the filling, seal, and then proceed to the next few panels.

4. Place a small amount of filling, about a teaspoon or two, in the center of each cut-out square or round. Then place the matching shape on top of the filling. To seal the square and small circular fritters, press the edges together with a fork. For the half moon shape, place the filling in the center of each circle, dough, fold over and then seal with a fork. N.B. One can use a small-sized ice-cream scoop to get a uniform amount of filling into each circle. It's not necessary to have uniform looking calciuni (or caveciuni), but a small-sized ice-cream scoop does make it easier to place the filling on the rounds.

5. Continue doing so until the first batch of pastry sheets have been processed.

6. Do the same for the second portion of dough.

For frying

1. Heat up oil in a deep pan. To find out if the oil is hot enough place a small piece of bread. When the bread sizzles, it is hot enough.

2. Place a few fritters at a time in the pan and fry till golden (about 3 minutes).

3. Remove and first place on aluminum cookware, making sure that the bottom half of the fritter goes on it, rather than the top half (The most visible) so as to avoid any damage. Later (as soon as possible) away from the heat place the fritters on paper towels to usurp excess oil (The first step is just a safety precaution -- it's best to keep the heat away from the paper towels!).

4. Cool.

5. Before serving dust with icing sugar.


Traditionally calciuni (or caveciuni) made in Molise used chickpeas, walnuts and honey and that's it -- but that's prior to World War II. Nowadays one will find chestnut-filled calciuni in some Molisani cookbooks and many young people living in this region might think of them as traditional delicacies. However, if I'm not mistaken, this style of stuffing originated in Tuscany. Prior to World War II chestnuts were not grown in Molise -- at least they were not grown in and around Casacalenda (according to my relatives), so few cooks would have used chestnuts to make holiday fritters (Would have been too expensive!). Prior to World War II chestnuts did show up around Christmas time at the food market in Casacalenda but only the well-do-do bought them; the poor (including my mother's family) couldn't afford them. Back then one only used in one's cooking the things that one grew in one's own fields, so if one did not have chestnut trees, well, that was that. In the 1960s chestnuts became more widely available in the South so chestnut-filled fritters became very popular here.... It is to be noted that some Italian cooks boil their chestnuts rather than roast them to make their chestnut paste. I have had very little success in doing so (Hard to get the peel off a boiled chestnut!). Of course, one can always buy canned chestnut puree and that is good too, but it's rather expensive. Personally, I don't like anything that comes out of a can, so I avoid canned anything and everything. In any case, roasting fresh chestnuts does add a special flavor to the chestnut calciuni paste stuffing, I do believe. On the other hand if one really wants to be cost-effective, chickpeas are a good alternative. Frankly, a chestnut stuffing is nice enough, but the difference between a chestnut stuffing and one with chickpeas is not all that great. The actual flavor comes from the cocoa. In any case there are dozens (if not hundreds!) of recipes for this style of fritter on the internet. This is my personal take on it. I made my fritters in the three "classic" shapes. Prior to World War II the half moon shape was the most popular in Molise, as this shape was associated with the crescent moon -- the lucky time of the month. Nonetheless, given a choice I would pick the "rounds" as my favorite shape for fritters. The square fritters make me think of meat-filled ravioli and so I don't like that association (Spoils the taste for me). Actually, in many parts of Italy this square-style of fritter is generally known as "ravioli dolci" -- sweet ravioli. Calciuni (or caveciuni) sounds better to my ear though, why I can't say, unless, of course, it's because I heard the word growing up. One's favorite foods, like it or not, are often linked to one's childhood. Perhaps that's the only time in our lives when food really, but really, tastes good. So good that one's whole life as a child revolves around, What's for lunch or What's for supper etc. O.K., lots of adults also wonder, What's for supper, but if one is the one making the supper, the last thing one might one to do is get up and do it! Now I'm rambling. Time to shut up.... Photo: by the contributor.

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