January 6, 2010

Buona Befana

La Befana vien di notte con le scarpe tutte rotte

The Befana comes at night with broken shoes

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Santo Stefano ( the 26th), New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and now the Befana- finally the Italian holidays are over! Except, technically Carnivale starts now and Easter comes early this year, April 4th.

The bad weather has put a crimp on the holiday celebrations today in the piazza where I live. Usually the local firemen dress up as the Befana ( men usually make the best as they can be really ugly) and "fly" from the local tall building down into the square to hand out candy to the kids that were good this year.

Usually children get a calza, like our christmas stockings, filled with chocolate and small gifts if they were good and chunks of black coal,made from sugar, if they were bad.

Doesn't sound too bad to me either way!

This year I bought some coal, to fotograph for the blog and was going to make some so you all could try at home. Then I thought- who really wants to buy black food coloring to add to their candy? I remembered a trick for making peanut brittle foamy and did some research and found a recipe for American honeycomb candy.

It is basically the same as making the Italian carbone- so if you have any black food coloring- go crazy-

Italian Carbone for La Befana adds 2 tbs of a powdered sugar and egg white glaze at the end and the American version adds baking powder.

American Honeycomb Candy

1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons baking soda ( bicarbonata di sodio)
(for the italian "carbone" mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 whipped egg white, use 2 tbs)

Prepare a 9x13 pan, covering with foil. ( if you have a silpat sheet, slip that on to the bottom).

Mix the sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a thick bottomed pot that is high-sided.
The mixture with expand when the baking soda is added.

Place over med-high heat and cook to the hard crack stage 300F or 140C.
Do not stir- you should clean the sides of the pan of any sugar crystals by letting water drip down off of a pastry brush.

Remove the pan from the stove and add the baking powder all at once and whisk!

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let sit for an hour to set.

Remove from pan and break up into smaller pieces using a knife.

Save in a airtight tin, to keep it crunchy.

Buona Befana a tutti!!!
Note: next time I am going to use the egg white/powdered sugar mix - I think the baking soda leaves a funny taste, sort of bitter.


  1. Oh to see the firemen-Befanas fly! We celebrate Epiphany tonight and is it really on to Carnevale?

  2. My husband grew up with La Bufana, and I'm certain he got coal once in awhile! :) I loved this post so much, I added a link to it on my own Epiphany celebration:


  3. Thanks for the Tuscan sentiments. Wish I was there!

  4. la befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte, con le toppe alla sottana, viva viva la befana!
    my grandma every year since I was a baby, wear her Befana costume to bring candies to the children of the family... I was so excited and scared! she still play the Befana role for my nephews, and I still love that day!

  5. Here in our local metropolis of Cannobio (pop. 5,000 including cats), at the northern end of Lago Maggiore, La Befana arrives by boat, rowed by two hunks from the local rowing club. For us La Befana is not the end of the Christmas celebrations, for the 7th and 8th are our patronal festival, during which we celebrate a painting of the Pietà which miraculously wept. We eat luganiche, a form of sausage, and, surprisingly, sauerkraut, and the electric lights are replaced with thousands of candles throughout the entire old town. Magical!

  6. PS Sorry - meant to say I'm visiting via Bev at Romancing Italy and I love your blog!

  7. mmmm....looks delish!