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The Cealini di Vecchiano are delicious biscuits with a simple and genuine flavor. They are prepared according to family tradition in the areas of Vecchiano, a village that lies exactly halfway between Pisa and Lucca. Like many other Italian biscuits (for example the famous “bugie” or “chiacchiere” of Carnival) the Cealini also have actually more nicknames and are prepared in various areas of Tuscany but simply called in a different way. The Cealini di Vecchiano, however, have a peculiarity: they are prepared always and only for the Epiphany. Why? Let’s find out together.
I Cealini di Vecchiano vengono preparati per l’Epifania senza una ragione ben precisa. E’ semplicemente una tradizione che si perde nella notte dei tempi e che fa riunire ogni anno le famiglie di quei territori. La data non ha particolari motivazioni. Se non, forse, il fatto che ricada in un periodo dell’anno particolarmente freddo durante il quale in tutte le case sia normale avere accese le stufe, i caloriferi e i camini. Infatti i Cealini di Vecchiano si preparano proprio a contatto diretto con il fuoco o con le braci. Da ricordare che, anni e anni orsono, i riscaldamenti “moderni” non esistevano e, se faceva freddo, un camino e della legna calda erano d’obbligo.
The Cealini in Vecchiano: in Italy the Befana is celebrated like this
The Cealini di Vecchiano are prepared for the Epiphany without a clear reason. It is simply a tradition that is lost in the night of time and that brings together the families of those territories every year. The date has no particular motivations. If not, perhaps, the fact that it falls at a particularly cold time of the year during which in all the houses the stoves, the radiators and the chimneys are lighted. In fact, the Cealini di Vecchiano must be prepared in direct contact with the fire or with the embers. We must remember that, years and years ago, when “modern” heaters did not exist and, if it was cold, a fireplace and hot wood were a must.
The Cealini di Vecchiano: the recipe
The recipe for the Cealini of Vecchiano is very simple. The ingredients are:
- Fresh Juice of 1 orange and Rind of 1 lemon
- 250 gr butter
- 600 g white sugar
- 150 g vanilla icing sugar
- 1, 2kg of flour
- 6 eggs
- 20 grams of anise seed
- 80ml of Sambuca
To prepare the homemade Tuscan cealini, whisk the eggs with the sugars until you get a frothy mixture. Add orange juice, lemon peel and softened butter at room temp. Lastly add the sieved flour, the liqueur and the anise seeds (after having soaked them for a few hours in a glass with vegetable oil and having squeezed them well). The mixture must be worked until a loaf is obtained. The loaf should then be divided into small squares the size of a hazelnut and the same are “pressed” between two metal plates.
How to cook the Cealini?
The molds for the Cealino can easily be made at home, and have the shape of a double scoop with handle that acts as a “press”. The plates have a size of about 10x10cm and a handle long enough to allow approaching the fire holding them by hand without getting burnt. Obviously, they are joined at the top with a joint. A bit like a toaster or a waffle iron! The plates of the “Palettina” must be in metal. and internally well oiled or rubbed with a potato (so that the Cealini does not stick). Once the dough is pressed between the two plates, bring the plate closer to a direct source of heat (usually a lit fireplace is preferred) and, holding the plates by the handle, let them “heat” for about 30 seconds.
Where to taste the best Cealini of Vecchiano?
I Brigidini della pasticceria Bargilli di Montecatini
If you want to taste the Cealini of Epiphany, because maybe you are in Tuscany just in the period after the first two weeks of the year, we have some places to suggest. Obviously the recipe of the basic Cealini is always the same, but may vary slightly in the methods used for the preparation as well as some additional family ingredients. That’s why, in each of the places suggested, you may find different cealini among them. One of the most famous places in the area to taste them is the patisserie Carli (https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Cupcake-Shop/PasticceriaCarli-Pioppino-1490403024515598/), in Lamporecchio. Here, even if only a few km away from Vecchiano, these delicious biscuits are slightly different (they change very little!) and are called “Brigidini”. Another great place to eat the Cealini is the Bargilli pastry shop in Montecatini (Https://www.cialdedimonteca which overlooks the main walking street of the quiet town.