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Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for Cenci

By Emma Knowles, Lisa Featherby & Alice Storey
  • Serves 24
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 15 mins cooking plus resting

Tuscany is perhaps Italy's best-known region, and its wealthy, powerful city states and their passion for the arts, culinary and otherwise, gave rise to a rich tradition at the table. Cenci, the name of these deep-fried biscuits from Florence, means rags, a reference to the shape cut from the dough.


  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 250 gm plain flour, sieved, plus extra for dusting (1⅔ cup)
  • 50 gm pure icing sugar, sieved, plus extra for dusting (⅓ cup)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 40 gm softened butter
  • 20 ml grappa
  • Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
  • For deep-frying: vegetable oil


  • 1
    Dry-roast fennel seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes), cool, finely crush with a mortar and pestle and set aside.
  • 2
    Process flour, icing sugar, eggs, butter, grappa, lemon rind and fennel seeds in a food processor until a soft dough forms (1-2 minutes). Turn onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a disc (add extra flour if sticky), cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (1 hour).
  • 3
    Divide dough in half and roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface to 2mm thick. Cut with a pasta wheel into 3cm x 25cm strips, tie into loose knots and set aside on a tray lined with baking paper and dusted with flour.
  • 4
    Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan over high heat to 180C. Deep-fry cenci in batches, turning occasionally, until golden and puffed (2-3 minutes; be careful as hot oil will spit), then drain on absorbent paper. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.


This recipe is from the April 2012 issue of .

  • Author: Emma Knowles, Lisa Featherby & Alice Storey