Saint Anthony Ciambellone Cake

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The ciambellone, or ciammellò cake, is a traditional savory cookie in the form of a knot from the municipality of Gallicano, and is the star of the feast celebrated on January 17th: Saint Anthony the Abbot. Originally it was at times shaped like a ciambellone cake, and continues to be made in some households in this shape.

There are two hypotheses on the origin of its shape: according to the first it looks like two overlapping horseshoes, due to the thaumaturgist meaning of the object, or the blessing of the animals performed on this day. The second instead sees the knot as symbolic of Saint Anthony’s vision in which the saint saw a hermit, which he was, who was knotting a rope and from that he deduced that in addition to a life of prayer it was necessary to dedicate oneself to a concrete activity.

During the feast of Saint Anthony the ciammellò cake is handed out directly by the priest to all the worshippers who bring their animals and machinery to be blessed. There is still a ciambellone cake feast held as a deeply rooted town event, and oral history passed down from the elderly date the ciammellò to around the mid 1800s.

Its ingredients are simple: sourdough starter (or bread dough), flour (all-purpose, Italian type 0), extra virgin olive oil, fennel seeds, red wine, water and salt. The process starts by letting the sourdough starter or bread dough grow (with some flour) and steeping of the fennel seeds in red wine the night before. Once these two steps are completed, the real process starts. The flour and oil are added, it is mixed and kneaded by hand for a long time and halfway through the steeped seeds are added. Once the dough is ready the ciambelloni are formed one by one, again by hand. The raw ciambelloni are then plunged in boiling water for a few seconds, to stop the rising, and then placed on a pan for baking. Some people prefer to let the ciambellone rise slightly on wooden boards before boiling them.

The cookie is normally prepared starting in December, because it is connected to the oil production process. They can be purchased in bakeries until the end of January. Currently very few produce ciambellone to sell to the public, however they are made in many homes and some bring them to bakeries for cooking after making them at home.

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Production area:Gallicano Commune, province of Rome

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Bread and baked goods

Nominated by:Patrizia di Fazio