With Easter around the corner, sweets to celebrate this holiday are in order. These chiambrelle are traditional for Easter and are a perfect recipe for springtime as they feature eggs heavily in the ingredients. If you are familiar with Italian, you’ll notice the odd spelling of “chiambrelle”: the word ciambelle is used to describe any manner of ring cake and the unique spelling you see here is a reflection of the Calabrese dialect and communities that this recipe comes from.
My mom remembers these as a child at her uncle’s wedding in Italy, as people traditionally got married in the spring. My mom prepared them for my own wedding as well and they are a must-have at Easter. In Italy they were baked in outdoor stone ovens.
This isn’t a super-sweet dessert, but rather a good accompaniment to an after-dinner coffee. This recipe has a icing sugar coating, but originally, when sugar wasn’t readily available, they would have been coated with stiff-beaten egg whites mixed with a bit of regular sugar.
Easter Ciambelle (or Chiambrelle)
2 ounces milk
2 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking power
5-6 cups all purpose flour
6 ounces milk
2 tsp butter
4 cups of icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon zest
Prepare a kneading board or area with a mound of five cups of flour. Also, put on a large pot of water to boil.
Create a well in the centre of the flour and fill the well with the remaining liquid ingredients and baking powder. Use a fork to slowly combine the flour into the liquid. Switch to using a bench scraper as the dough becomes thicker. Start with five cups of flour around your well and add the sixth cup of flour if needed as you go along if you find your dough very wet. The amount of flour you need depends on the dryness of the flour and the eggs (in this instance, we used 5 1/2 cups total).
When well combined, knead for two to three minutes. The final dough with be semi-soft and still a bit sticky to the touch.
Cut the dough into pieces of 115-120 grams each. Roll these pieces into rope and then form them into a ring, pinching the ends together. You can use a dab of water to help stick the ends together.
When your rings are formed, and your pot has reached a boil, prepare a tray with a towel. Place the chiambrelle, one or two at a time, into the boiling water. Once they rise to the surface, boil them for approximately two to three minutes. Remove them, using a strainer or spider, to the towel and drain.
These chiambrelle puff up when baked and scoring the rings gets them to rise high. Using the tip of a knife, create a cut along the middle, or “equator”, of each ring. Insert just the tip of the knife and don’t go more than half way through, controlling the depth with your fingertips. Also make four to five vertical cuts around the ring, evenly spaced, again with just the tip of the knife.
Bake in the top third of an oven preheated to 400 degrees Celsius (375 degrees if your oven runs a bit hot). Back the chiambrelle directly on the oven grate. You’ll need to do this in two batches.
Bake for 15 minutes then turn the rings and bake for another five minutes. Do not overcrowd them when baking. Remove when they are an even golden brown and feel very light in weight.
Allow the chiambrelle to cool completely before icing. Mix all the icing ingredients together in a deep bowl and use an immersion blender, if possible, or a lot of elbow-grease with a whisk to get the icing smooth. Using your hands and a pastry brush, coat all sides of the chiambrelle with icing and allow to dry.
The chiambrelle can be presented whole or cut into chunks after Easter dinner or in a wedding dessert table. The chiambrelle can be frozen prior to icing. This recipe makes approximately 15 chiambrelle.