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 the 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 a ciambella di San Biagio in many bakeries and supermarkets across the region. While in the old days the cakes were made with lard, today it has been replaced with butter. The rest of ingiredients haven’t changed for centuries: flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs and anise or fennel seeds. You can see one in English here with a variation from L’Aquila where these cakes are richer and have candied cherries and raisins in them. Dolci Aveja bakery makes delicious ciambelle di San Biagio, so if you happen to be near L’Aquila make sure to buy a few there.
I love my ciambella washed down with the most delicious dessert wine – Moscatello from Castiglione a Casauria. On the photo you see a bottle from the Angelucci winery, which has been sold since and now is called Secolo IX.