February in Rome is not just about Valentine’s Day but more importantly about carnevale. From the latin carnem levare which makes reference to Shrove Tuesday from which henceforth no more meat would be permitted. Carnevale is nowadays more popular with kids but adults still enjoy the dress up and the sweets that go with it. The art of masking oneself was made popular in the 16th century with the Commedia dell’Arte and has survived in the shape of several characters which kids still dress up in today.
Arlecchino: one of the most famous masks and renowned for being lazy but quick witted with a sharp tongue.
Meo Patacca: a distinctively Roman character, fashioned after the arrogant and cocky boys of Trastevere, who despite their bravado were loyal and amiable.
This typical carnival treat is a simple yet delicious way to sweeten cold February days. Like most carnival desserts it has a different name depending on where it’s being eaten, and like it’s cousins it is fried and full of sugar. It has it’s origins in Ancient Rome where it used to be called frictilla. Frying was, and still is, an efficient and low cost way to serve sweets to a crowd…something that Romans are still happily aware of, to the delight of everybody’s waistlines.
Frappe are great at any time of day, best when freshly fried but they can also keep for 2-3 days in a paper bag.
Ingredients for 40 units:
-50 gr unsalted butter-1 vanilla pod
-3 medium sized eggs plus an extra yolk
-6 gr baking powder
-70 gr white or brown sugar
-30 gr grappa (grape based distilled spirit)
-a pinch of salt
-500 gr ’00’ white flour
You’ll also need frying oil such as peanut oil and icing sugar to dust on top.
Sift the flour and then mix with the baking powder. Add the sugar,eggs, grappa and then work until well mixed.
Next open up the vanilla pod, extract the seeds and add to mixture with the butter.
The dough should be firm but moist, if necessary add a spoonful of water.
Form a ball and then wrap in some clingfilm for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has rested you can make portions of roughly 150 gr each and start flattening them. This process is a lot easier if you own a pasta maker otherwise start using some elbow grease! You need to get the dough down to about 2mm of thickness, while you’re stretching start heating the oil which should not rise beyond 180°C or they’ll burn.
Start cutting rectangles 10 cm wide and 5 cm thick roughly as big as a hand. Make sure you make two vertical cuts in the middle to help them maintain shape when they fry.
When frying remember to flip the frappe around until they reach a delicate golden colour. Once cooked set to dry on kitchen roll and then arrange and sprinkle with icing sugar. This is the classic version, however you can mix it up and try new combinations. The grappa can be substituted with other spirits and instead of icing sugar you can try cinnamon or chocolate.
Good luck and buon appetito!