In Abruzzo they say “Per San Biagio, il Mitrato, il freddo è andato” meaning that for the feast of San Biagio, cold weather is finished and spring is around the corner. Apart from sunshine and birds chirping there is another sure sign of the fast approaching spring: ciambella di San Biagio, small traditional ring-shaped cakes that are baked in Abruzzo this time of year.
The feast of San Biagio (or Saint Blaise) is celebrated on February 3 across Italy. The province of L’Aquila in Abruzzo has always had strong traditions connected to this saint with many chapels, churches and sanctuaries dedicated to him. In Lecce nei Marsi villagers have been bringing their baked ciambelle (“sciambelle” as they are called here) to be blessed in the local church of San Biagio on the day of the feast for many centuries. In old days, the blessed cakes were given to friends and family members as they were believed to protect the throat and cure goitre, the disease that used to be quite common in the province.
Nowadays, you can buy ciambella di San Biagio in many bakeries and supermarkets across the region. The recipe has not changed much for centuries and calls for simple ingredients such as flour, butter, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs and anise or fennel seeds. You can see one in English here although I do not agree with their translation of the name “donuts” as ciambelle di San Biagio are harder and not fried but baked.
I love eating my ciambella accompanied with the most delicious dessert wine Moscatello made by Angelucci in Castiglione a Casauria.
If you happen to be in the province of L’Aquila these days, head to the artisan bakery Dolci Aveja in Cavalletto d’Ocre where you can see how the fragrant ciambelle di San Biagio are made. They are delicious straight from the oven!