Galani Venice Style
Whether it’s galani or crostoli, this fluffy, crispy, and mildly sweet delicacy is a staple in many home gatherings of families and friends from the Veneto-Dalmatian region. This region broadly includes northeast Italy from Verona to Trieste and all the Croatian coast and the many islands in the former Yugoslavia governed by Italy in the period between the two world wars.
It’s a cultural thing
I recently made a plateful of galani for a book signing event to share with my readers. I talk about galani in Chapter 25, Nostalgia, of my book Canaries Can’t Cry. It is a common occurrence in social gatherings to place of big bowl of galani in the center of the table with a jug of red wine, much the way Americans would put a bowl of potato chips and a pitcher of beer, except that the galani are always homemade. In the chapter Nostalgia, I meet for the first time my uncle and cousins from Sansego, now living in Hoboken. In the middle of the table, they had a big bowl of galani and a jug of Gallo wine.
I remember this gathering as a warm get-together that ended in folkloric songs of Dalmatia. For this reason, I will always have a soft spot for galani in my heart and a warm place for a bowl of that pastry strip on my table. I now fully embrace my American culture together with my Veneto-Dalmatian heritage, and on, occasion, I heartily put of bowl of potato chips on the table. It’s as heartwarming and as satisfying as galani.
This blog is to share a bit of the social culture from my Dalmatian roots. I would be amiss if I did not include my family’s recipe in here.
1 cup flour, sifted, plus more for rolling the dough
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of grappa
oil for frying
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Optional: To the batter, you may add the zest of one lemon or orange, one tablespoon of butter, a pinch of salt
To make the galani dough, place the flour in a large bowl. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and grappa.
Knead the dough with your hands until it comes together into a smooth, even ball (it should bounce back when gently pressed with a finger). Wrap the dough in a damp kitchen towel and leave to rest for one hour.
Next divide the dough into small portions and roll them thinly using a pasta machine (or a rolling pin), dusting them with flour at every passage. Cut the strips of dough into rectangles (about 3×1.5 in.). Make small cuts in the dough or twist it as desired.
Fill three-quarters of a deep, medium-sized skillet with light olive oil (or avocado or grapeseed oil) and set it over medium heat. When the oil is hot (355F), slip in a first batch (3-4) of crostoli. Fry them until deep-golden all over, for about 3 minutes (or less). Watch then carefully, as they turn golden very quickly. Drain them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with towel paper. When cool, dust them generously with fine sugar.
A holiday pleaser
Galani or crostoli is ubiquitous throughout Italy by many names and variations. From crostoli, in northern Italy, to chiacchere in Lombardi, to bugie, sfrappole, grostoli, cenci, and frappe, the ingredients very from the region to region. In Venice they use grappa, in Romagna they use rum. Sometimes orange or lemon zest is added to the dough. The variations are as limited only by one’s imagination. My sister-in-law, a wonderful cook from Bologna, sticks to the basic of one-one-one-one: one cup flour, one egg, one tablespoon sugar, one tablespoon rum. Double the ingredients, if desired.
In addition to being a party pleaser, galani is an essential ingredient to complement holiday festivities from natale to carnevale.
Buone feste. Happy holidays.