Galani, original recipe from Venice
A typical dessert of the Venice Carnival, but with origins much older than Frittelle, are the GALANI. If the Venetians have no doubt in recognizing the Republic of Venice as the birthplace of these sweets, the Tuscans swear that they are their invention and call them “cenci” (rags) or “chiacchiere” (chatter). And so, every region, christen them with their own name claiming in this way the paternity: from the “lattughe” (lettuce) in Brescia, to the “bugie” (lies) in Piedmont and Liguria, from the “frappe” or “flappe” in Umbria to the “sfrappole” in Romagna. All these names for one very sweet thin ribbon-shaped dessert with very ancient origins.
In fact it is thought that, to trace the origin of these sweets, we should look back to the times of the Romans, who, during the Spring Festival, used to prepare, with the same mixture with which they made lasagne, some cakes very similar to the modern galani, fried in pork fat and then covered with honey, known as crostoli. In Venice from January until the end of the Carnival you can find frittelle and galani in any pastry shop and bakery.
But you must realize that there is a subtle difference, not so much in the dough, as in the thickness of the dough and the form, between the crostoli and galani. The crostoli, in fact, are mostly rectangular, simple, perhaps a sign of their ancient tradition, often made less “rough” with the curling edge obtained by cutting the dough with the toothed wheel. Although prepared with the same recipe, the galani, typical of the city of Venice, are strips of very very thin pasta cut in the form of ribbons, long or short, before being dipped into the hot fat. I galani are thin and brittle, while the pasta of crostoli is slightly less crumblier and thicker.
The word crostolo comes from the Latin “crusta”, indicating a kind of cookie (and street vendors once used to put the ice cream in the crostolo before the cone was invented).
At the weekend I called my mum and decided to get her to help me make some Galani for the family, as we always do during Carnival time. We suggest that if you decide to do this recipe (which is very easy but also requires speed) you do it with a friend or a family member, so whilst one person rolls the pastry the other one fries and it gives you plenty of time to have a good chat!
Ingredients for 3 bowls of Galani: :
400 gr. plain flour, 60 gr. sugar, 50 gr. butter (must be left at room temperature for at least 20 minutes), 2 eggs, 1 glass of white dry wine or grappa, 1 pinch of salt.
Preparation: Take the flour and the salt and sieve them directly on the working area, making a well in the centre. Add the sugar, then the butter reduced in small bits. Rub the butter into the sugar and flour. Now add the 2 eggs and at first beat them into the four and butter, then slowly start pushing the flour into the eggs, mixing everything well (just like when you prepare pasta). Now start adding a bit of wine at the time , making sure each time it is well absorbed by the pastry. Keep working the pastry with your hands for at least 10 minutes, banging it on the working area as you would with the bread dough. This helps the pastry rising. Carry on working until the pastry is smooth and elastic (as shown on the picture). Leave to rest covered with a kitchen towel for at least 1 hour. Once the hour has passed, start heating up your oil. In the meantime take a small piece of the dough (the size of an egg) and roll out the pastry very very thinly, less than 1mm, just like a sheet of paper. Using a pizza cutter, cut out some rectangular shapes ( 1 cm x 4 cm circa or smaller) and make a little cut inside each of them (this will stop the strips from exploding in the hot oil). As soon as the oil is hot enough (check this by placing the handle of a wood spoon in it – if bubbles appear around it the oil is ready) take 2 or 3 strips (not more otherwise they will burn) and put them in the oil. Cook on each side for about 5-10 seconds (they will bubble up) and remove (they must be a nice pink colour, not brown). Place on some kitchen paper and let to rest. Keep rolling and frying until the dough is finished. When all Galani are completed place into a nice tray and cover with icing sugar.