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"Chickpea" Candy (Ceciarchiata Taiglach)

This dessert gets its name from the word for "chickpeas" or "little bits," which is what ceciarchiata translates to in Italian. Taiglach (little pieces of fried dough dredged in honey) are eaten for celebratory occasions. This dessert is fitting for Rosh Hashana, as honey desserts are traditional for this holiday. Note that the lemon zest called for in this recipe is only the colored part of the lemon skin -- be careful not to scrape away any of the white pith underneath, which is bitter.

3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1 cup honey
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped almonds

Put the eggs, flour and salt in a bowl; stir to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for a couple of minutes. Shape it into a ball, flatten it with your hands and sprinkle it lightly with flour.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips and dredge these in flour. Then cut the strips into chickpea-size bits and again dredge with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other. Scoop up the bits in a large sifter to remove the excess flour.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan or wok and fry a handful of the bits at a time until lightly golden, stirring so that they are an even color. Drain on paper towels and cool. (You can also bake them, 1/3 at a time, on an ungreased cookie sheet on the middle rack of a preheated 400-degree oven for about 7 minutes).

In a 6-cup, heavy casserole, bring the honey to a boil and simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes. Add all the dough balls, the toasted and chopped hazelnuts, and the lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over lower heat 7 minutes longer, stirring constantly.

Spread the toasted almonds over an oiled round serving platter and pour the hot mixture on top. Let it settle for a few minutes. When the mixture is cool enough to be handled, shape it into a circle with the help of a spoon and your moistened hands. Let it cool thoroughly at room temperature (it will harden a little).

The taiglach can be eaten either by breaking off pieces with your fingers or by cutting it into 2-inch segments. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Note: In our recipe test, we thought the taiglach was much better when fried, rather than baked. We would also recommend increasing the salt to a full teaspoon.

Thursday, September 28, 2000

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