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Ciambelle Scotolate

Aniseed Rings

Today ciambella is a relatively vague term for any ring-shaped Italian dessert. Large ones are more like bundt cakes, small ones resemble cookies.  The word is even used for American-style donuts.  There is however one variety, called ciambelle scotolate (also ciammelle and ciammollitti) that are made more less the way Messisbugo made what he called brazzatelle in the sixteenth century.  They are made like bagels, first boiled and then baked.  In the hill town of Supino, some 50 miles south of Rome, they make several varieties, some dipped in sugar, others little more than bread dough flavored with a little aniseed.  An unsweetened version used to be traditional for the feast of San Rocco when they were hung on the saint’s left hand while one was placed in his dog’s mouth.  After a procession, they were distributed to the poor, though the dog got to keep his.  The sugar-dipped ciambelle were given to newlyweds.  Strictly speaking, this particular version is more of a sweet snack than a dessert though most Italians would undoubtedly class it as a dolce, a sweet.

Makes a dozen ciambelle

1 envelope active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water

1 pound unbleached all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/2 cup white wine at room temperature

½ cup sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon aniseed

¼ teaspoon salt

rind of 1 lemon

1.  Stir together the yeast and water until dissolved.  Whisk in 6 tablespoons flour. Let rise in a warm place until mixture has doubled, 15-30 minutes. In a bowl combine the wine, egg, olive oil and sugar.  Stir in the yeast mixture. 

2.  Gradually add the remaining flour  together with the salt, anise seed and lemon rind until the dough is the consistency of bread dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Set in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size.  This will take a while, figure 2 to 3 hours.

3.  Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 pieces.  On a lightly floured board, roll each of these into balls.  Let rest 5 minutes.  Form into ropes about 15 inches long.  If the dough springs back too much during forming, let rest 5 minutes before proceeding.  Make the ropes into rings overlapping the ends. Let rest about 15 minutes.

4.  Bring water to a boil in a wide saucepan.  Lower heat to a bare simmer.  Gently immerse the ciambelle in the water.  Boil for 1 minute, turn once and boil one more minute.  Remove and dry on kitchen towel.

5. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Set the boiled ciambelle on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, 20 to 30 minutes.