Easter recipes in Umbria

We are approaching Easter and on the Umbrian tables, laden with delicacies and decorated by the scents of spring with its colors and the sweet sound of the singing turtle doves, two traditional dishes of the Umbrian culture and food and wine cannot be missing: the sweet Ciaramicola to be enjoyed for breakfast or at the end of the meal paired with an Umbrian Vin Santo from Grechetto and Trebbiano, and Torta al Formaggio that accompanies rich and tasty cold cuts and appetizers.

The Ciaramicola and its origins
A donut known in the Perugian villages as early as the 15th century, it is a leavened cake covered with candid meringue and enriched and adorned with colored sugared almonds. Its internal dough has a red/pink color given by the liqueur used for this dessert: Alchermes, based on cochineal, rose water, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and coriander. An Italian liqueur much loved by the Medici family.

The name Ciaramicola, etymologically, derives from various nuances
of meaning:
Da Ciaramella: for the circularity of its shape;
• From Ciarapica: the dialectal name of the Cinciallegra, the spring bird;
Da Ciara: in reference to the meringue made from egg whites or egg whites.

Tradition also wants the Ciaramicola to be a dessert that girls gave to their future husbands at Easter as a good omen.

Another important tradition of the Umbrian territory is linked to the feast of Sant’Ubaldo, patron saint of Gubbio. In fact, a text from 1431 states that the Ciaramigola was made to be prepared and offered to the people of Gubbio on the occasion of the feast of the saint on 15 May.

Finally, it often happens to find the Ciaramicola with 5 “tufts” of meringue, representing the five Perugini districts: Porta Santa Susanna represented by the blue color of the sugared almonds (due to the orientation towards Lake Trasimeno della Porta), Porta Eburnea by the green (the vegetable gardens), Porta Sant’Angelo with its red color (the sword of the Angel), Porta San Pietro with its yellow color (like wheat), Porta Sole as white as meringue and like the light of the sun (in fact the sun is the symbol of this Gate).

The recipe of Ciaramicola
Ingredients for the donut:
• 550g of 00 flour
• 250 g of sugar
• 150gr of lard (butter alternative)
• 4 eggs
• 1 sachet of baking powder
• Zest of 1 lemon
• 200ml of Alkermes
Ingredients for the meringue:
• 100 g of egg whites
• 200 g of sugar
• 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
For decoration:
• Colored sugar sprinkles

Let’s start by whisking the egg and sugar until obtaining a homogeneous foam to which we will add the sifted flour and yeast, the lard at room temperature, the grated lemon zest and finally the Alchermes. After mixing all the ingredients, pour it into a buttered pan. In the oven for about 45 minutes at 160°C.
For the meringue, whip the egg whites at high speed with the cream of tartar and gradually the sugar. It should be firm, soft and shiny.
Once the donut is cold, we cover it with meringue and finally with the colored sprinkles. Back in the oven for 25 minutes to cook the meringue at 90°C.

Torta al Formaggio
A leavened product rich in cheese and flavors typical of the Easter holidays in Umbria but which can be eaten and consumed all year round due to its goodness, simplicity and ease of combination with cured meats, especially capocollo and pork butchery.
Not infrequently, the cheese cake is eaten for breakfast on Easter morning, which is why it is also known by the name of Easter cake.
In De Agri Coltura, Catone writes about a cheese cake that is especially famous in Tuoro sul Trasimeno.

Torta al Formaggio recipe

• 500g of 00 flour
• 100gr of grated parmesan
• 75g of grated pecorino
• 10gr of brewer’s yeast
• 100 ml of extra virgin olive oil
• 150m of milk
• 100g of Emmentaler cheese
• 4 eggs
• 10g of salt
• Pepper as needed

Let’s start by dissolving the yeast in the warmed milk. In a bowl, mix flour, pecorino and Parmesan, eggs, milk with yeast and finally the oil slowly and begin to knead well until all the ingredients are mixed well and a homogeneous and smooth dough is obtained. Add the salt, pepper and the finely chopped or grated Emmentaler cheese. Place the dough in a buttered mold and let it rise for 2 hours then bake it at 180°C for about an hour.

Copyright foto Torta al Formaggio by Spicchio d’Aglio