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Cicerchiata (Honeyed dough balls shaped into a ring, without yeast, Christmas fritters, Carnival fritters)
Originated from: Molise & Abruzzo
Occasion: Christmas and Carnival
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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For the dough
1 3/4 cups flour
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar

For frying
about 2 cups vegetable oil

For dipping
about 1 cup honey
3/4 cup sugar

For decoration
3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
2 tablespoons colored sprinkles (optional)


1. Beat eggs.

2. Place 1 cup of flour on a wooden board.

3. Add beaten eggs and mix well.

4. Slowly add more flour, working into a soft malleable dough. If the dough is too soft add a touch more flour, if it's too hard, add a touch more beaten egg.

5. Divide the dough in half.

6. Shape into two balls. Wrap the balls in clear plastic wrap.

7. Let the dough rest for about an hour.

8. Either roll out one of the balls of dough to 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin on a floured wooden board. Or use a pasta maker.

9. Cut into strips about 1/4 wide.

10. Cut the strips into very small pieces -- about 1 inch long.

11. Shape the strips into very tiny balls (The size of a marble).

12. Continue doing this until all the dough is processed.

To fry the dough balls

1. Heat up the vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil)

2. Place one ball in the heated oil and if it sizzles than the oil is ready to be use.

3. Place a few of the dough balls in the heated oil and fry until they are golden brown.

4. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.

5. Keep doing this until all the balls are fried.

6. Cool.

To Dip in Honey

1. Grease two large serving platters [The grease will help the honeyed dough balls from sticking to the platter].

2. Over moderate heat, heat up the honey in a cooking pan.

3. Add the sugar to the honey, stirring constantly.

4. When the honey and sugar mixture is very smooth (about 4 minutes), add the fried dough balls, making sure they get nicely coated with honey.

5. As soon as they are coated with honey (a few seconds) remove the honeyed dough balls from the pan and place on the greased serving platters.

6. When all the dough balls have been coated with honey and are still a bit warm and sticky, place them on a decorative platter, re-shaping them into a ring. Place the dough balls one on top of each other -- making a huge donut-like structure, so that the center is hollow and the outside forms a thick wall [See photo]. The width and height of the ring will depend on the number of balls made.

7. Decorate with pine nuts or colored sprinkles (optional).

8. Keep in the fridge until needed.

9. Serve at room temperature, cutting slices of the ring [as if it were a cake] for individual guests.


"Cicerchiata" are either presented as balls (See Cicerchiata, Version I) or they are presented as a ring-shaped dessert (Version II). Prior to World War II the cicerchiata were often made from scraps of left-over pastry dough that had been used to make caragnole. However, in some towns, including in Casacalenda, the small balls were shaped into rings and presented as a cake-like dessert; slices were cut and given to guests (My own mother never made cicerchiata in the shape of a ring, but she knows of people in her hometown who did). In the old days few cooks decorated the rings with colored sprinkles. Nowadays, they do. Making this ring-shaped dessert is labor-intensive and can be slightly dangerous (The balls have to be a bit warm in order to shape them into a ring and so one can easily burn one's fingers). The cicerchiata ring has a similar texture to Rice Crispy bars, though, of course, it tastes a lot better. It wouldn't surprise me if the cooks at the Rice Crispy Kitchens got their inspiration for their bars from the Molise-Abruzzo "Cicerchiata." Nonetheless, this dessert does take a great deal of effort, and the results might be disappointing. I suppose, though, if one had this dessert as a small child, then the value of the dessert does not come from the taste, but from its pleasant associations. On the other hand, one might argue, that because this cook (Me!) never ate a slice of the cierchiata-ring as a small child or had the pleasure of watching her mother prepare it I might not have managed to recreate the famous dessert exactly right.... Photo: by the contributor.

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