Pinza veneta, what is the original recipe for the Epiphany cake?

The venetian forceps it is a typical sweet of the Italian North-East region that is enjoyed in the days around the Epiphany. Particularly on the eve of the holiday, when, in large part of Venetogods are lit big bonfire in which the puppet of a witch is burned. A rite of pre-Christian derivation with which farmers asked for protection and luck for the new year’s crops and which today continues to be celebrated to understand if the new year will bring good or bad luck. And also of peasant origin is the Venetian pincer, a cake that it is customary to eat while watching this fire show. But what is the original recipe of this specialty?

Pinza veneta, the original recipe

Being of peasant origin, it was (and partly still is) a sweet made with poor ingredients. However, more than the original recipe of the Venetian caliper we should talk about “recipes”, as there is not one codified and considered as original ever. As in many popular traditions, based on the Veneto area where the specialty is prepared change the list slightly of the ingredients. Making a summary, in most cases the list provided stale bread, milk, sugar, eggs, dried fruit, raisins, apples and fennel seedsall to be mixed together.

An old recipe describes the preparation of the Venetian caliper as follows: “With the corn flourover which boiling water is poured: when it has cooled down a bit, it is added wheat floureverything is kneaded and then wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves, it is cooked on the ariola, covering it with ashes”. In fact, tradition always required that dessert should be cooked under the ashes of the great bonfiresknown by different names around the Veneto: panevìn, vecia, casera, foghera, pignarûl, piroea-paroea e panain.

The Venetian gripper today

Over time, the poor ingredients used for the preparation of the Venetian gripper have become slightly “richer” than those of the origins. Until the middle of the 20th century it was packaged with a mixture of wheat and corn flours, raisins, dried figs, walnut kernels e fennel seeds. The whole was reduced to a very low and wide parallelepiped shape. Even today the cake can get to have a up to one meter wide. In some areas, custom has it that the dough must be left to rest before going into the oven, in others the leavening is skipped.

Just the use of yellow corn flour, common for the preparation of polenta, makes the pincer a bit a polenta pizza. Today the list of the most used ingredients is more or less this: 200 g of polenta flour, 150 g of white wheat flour, 100 g of sugar, 100 g of butter, ½ sachet of yeast, 70 ml of milk, 60 g of raisins, 20 g of pine nuts, 60 g of figs dry, fennel seeds (just enough), grappa (to taste) in which to leave the raisins and figs to macerate, and salt (to taste).

The preparation

The first step of the recipe for the gripper calls for bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan with the addition of 500 ml of water and a pinch of salt. After that they go mix the flours together in another container. As soon as the milk and water begin to boil, they should be poured into the liquid, taking care to do so in rain and little by little. This step will be done constantly beating with a whisk the mixture to prevent lumps from forming. Then, the polenta should continue cooking, turning it over with a ladle.

After approximately 30 minutes of cooking, remove from the heat and add the sugar, raisins and dried figs macerated in the grappa, the fennel seeds, the pine nuts, a pinch of cinnamon and the baking powder to the polenta. All must be incorporated by mixing well. Finally, the mixture is poured into a buttered cake pan and baked for 40 minutes at a moderate temperature (180°) until a golden crust is obtained on the surface.

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