Once upon a time in Italy children used to receive their Christmas presents on the Epifania (Epiphany – the 6th of January), instead of on Christmas day. On the eve of Epifania children would hang a stocking near their bed or next to the fireplace, where the mythical kindly old peasant woman known as la Befana would fill them with biscuits, oranges, dried fruit and a present. You can read more about this tradition in my blog from last year http://blogs.transparent.com/italian/viva-la-befana/
In a little recipe book entitled Torte e ciambelle dolci e frittelle by Elda Carlotti, a collection of traditional cake recipes from the area around Lucca, I found this nice recipe for Befanini, written in the form of a rhyme. Befanini are the traditional biscuits, shaped like angels, stars, and ‘befane’, which are put in the children’s stockings for Epifania.
Buona sera brava gente
Vi ho portato i Befanini
La ricetta abbiate in mente
Per rifarla ai bamborini*.
Dentro un chilo di farina
Burro e zucchero ci vuole (350 gr),
Poi due uova di gallina
E un arancio un* ci sta male.
Di limon una grattatina
Gli dà aroma e molto gusto,
Poi due lieviti in bustina …
Ecco pronto il vostro impasto.
Con formine e mattarello
Date vita ai Befanini
E per far tutto più bello,
Ci van messi anche i chicchini.
È ricetta molto antica
Della nostra Lucchesia
Non vi costano fatica
Se li fate in allegria.
Good evening gentle folk / I’ve brought you the Befanini / memorize the recipe / so that you can make it for your children.
In a kilo of flour / you need butter and sugar (350 gr), / then two hens’ eggs / and an orange wouldn’t be a bad idea.
A few gratings of lemon / gives it aroma and a lot of flavor, / then two sachets** of baking powder … / that’s your mixture ready.
With pastry cutters and rolling pin / bring the Befanini to life / and to make them more beautiful, / you should also add hundreds and thousands (the little multicolored sugary grains used to decorate cakes and cookies).
It’s a very old recipe / from our Lucca region / they are no trouble to make / if you do it with cheerfulness.
** Here in Italy baking powder is sold in individual sachets of 16 grams each.
* Bamborini is Tuscan dialect for bambini (children); un is Tuscan for non (not).
Buona Befana a tutti!