Feb 15, 2013

Recipe: Ciambelle with Fennel

Chiambelle with Fennel Recipe

All Food February continues on An Italian-Canadian Life with one of my favourite breads to have in the house: ciambelle with fennel!

Ciambella (or chiambella) is a word used for pretty much anything round with a hole in the middle really, even cakes appear with this name. However, this is a bread that is a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle, great-for-dipping-or-with-cheese kind of bread that I always like to have in the house. My mother started making this bread after getting the recipe from a friend and it’s become one of my family favourites. I believe she’s perfected getting the outside crispy. It freezes very well, so they are easy to keep and then warm up in the oven to have with dinner or appetizers.

Besides just being awesome bread, I now expect it for any family gathering, it’s just part of tradition. But my favourite memory with this bread happened just last year. My husband and I served it for the first time to his grandfather. His Nonno immediately began to tear up. Turns out, his sister (since passed) used to make this bread for him all the time and he hadn’t had it since he was quite young. It brought back all sorts of memories for him. For Christmas, we baked up a double batch and brought him a huge basket full to store in his freezer and have whenever he wanted. He was thrilled and still talks about it. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. That’s an old recipe come to life.

Ciambelle with Fennel
12 cups of all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups warm water

Mix together the water, sugar and yeast and let it activate. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and fennel. Once the yeast is ready, mix it together with the eggs and oil.


You can create the dough by hand or in a large mixture. To do it by hand, on a wooden board, make a mound with the flour mixture and create a well in the middle. Into the well add in the egg mixture and begin to incorporate it into the flour using a fork, working around the edge of the well. As it comes together, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.

If you are using a large mixer, put the flour into the bowl and add the egg mixture to it. Using a dough hook, mix the ingredients together. Continue to knead it until the dough is smooth and elastic and not sticky at all.


Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow it to rise until it doubles in size. Once the dough has risen, it’s time to prep for the second part of the process. Put a large pot of water on to boil and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured wooden board. Cut off portions of the dough to work with immediately and cover the rest, in reserve, while you are working. Roll out your dough to create a rope about 18 inches long and 1 inch thick. Be sure to slightly flour your hands before doing this and use your palms to roll. When you have your rope length, use one hand to hold one end still while using your other palm to roll the rest of the rope creating a slight twist in the dough. Bring the two ends together and join them to form a large doughnut shape. You’ll need to press the ends together and roll them slightly with your palm.


It’s important that you do not allow the dough to rise again, so create six or seven ciambelle to work with to start. When you have your ciambelle, drop one (or two if the pot is very large) into the boiling pot of water. They should rise to the top immediately. When they rise, turn them over and let it boil for one minute. Remove and drain on a dish towel. Repeat with the remaining ciambelle. This process is what give the ciambelle their shiny crust.


When all six have been boiled, place the ciambelle directly on your oven grates and bake in the top third of the oven. Bake for about 10-12 minutes on each side, for a total of 20-22 minutes or until a medium golden. In a convection oven, where the element is not exposed, cook them on the middle rack. Enjoy them while they are hot, or freeze and reheat in the oven later.


Print Friendly


  • Love the back story to this recipe. Tradition is at the heart of Italian cuisine and it was so great to see how your Nonno was touched by the memories the dish brought back.

  • This bread looks so nice! And it’s so nice of you to make extra for your Nonno! :)

    • Thanks Sarah! It was a great gift to give.

  • What a wonderful recipe! The fact alone that they first need to be boiled makes me want to try them!

  • These look delicious!! I love the flavor of fennel! What a great snack…..gonna have to try these!

  • Queste ciambelle in ciociaria si chiamano ” ciambelle di Sora ” mia madre le faceva sempre , adesso a 83 anni e non puo’ piu’ farle, adesso tocca a me farle ! Ci provero con questa ricetta ! Grazie per la dose , Mia mamma faceva tutto a occhio !

  • I would like to try this, can I cut the recipe in half and replace the fennel with sesame seeds? I had a bad experience with Sambuca and can’t do fennel…lol.

    • Lol! I don’t get along well with sambuca either! I’ve never tried it with sesame seeds, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. The fennel seeds, or any seeds, are integral to the finished product if you don’t like the taste. We did once put hot pepper flakes in instead and they came out great! Let me know how it turns out.

  • Thanks for publishing this recipe. My mother, Maria, 82 years old from Sora Frosinone can no longer make this heritage bread. She too made them by eye. I do know that she used anise instead of its cousin fennel. And that is what I used to make mine.
    I’ve just taken the batch out of the oven and they tuned out magnificently. I just purchased an Ankarsrum Mixer from Sweden and this machine can easily handle this stiff dough.


    • So great to hear this! Yes we use a Hobart mixer now. Our batches are so big, we burned out the motor on our Kitchenaid twice! Glad you are enjoying the recipe!

  • A friend directed me to this recipe. My grandfather loved these, I never knew if they were home-made or from a bakery, and he always pronounced it “jombelle.” I have been searching for a recipe for years but I always looked under “G.” Can’t wait to try them!

    • Let me know how it works out. I used to think it was spelled with a “g” as well!

  • My aunt who recently passed away made the best ciambelle. She used both fennel and anise together in her recipe.
    My family is also from the Sora area in Italy.
    I am trying to keep the tradition going by making them often. Just tried this recipe. Hope they turn out. (mine was similar but no oil and less eggs)
    Nice to actually have a recipe to follow as I am always just guessing and estimating.
    I’ll let you know how they turn out.

  • I just made your ciambelle and they are delicious. I was just wondering on average how many ciambelle this recipe makes. Mine took a bit longer to brown in the oven. I ended up making eight with the dough but was wondering if I made them too big.

    • It depends on how big you make them. I usually get 10-12. If you make them larger (and only get 8) you’ll need to bake them a little longer!

  • I usually get around 12 ciambelle with 12 cups of flour. But it all depends on how big you want to make them.

  • What a small world. My family is also from Sora and I share the same surname as John. My mother used to make a fantastic chiambelle (I always thought they were called chiamelle) and I am trying preserve the tradition. Thanks for the great tips and pictures. I was never able to perfect the twist, but thanks to you I now know what I have been doing wrong. In the past I would buy the pizza dough at an Italian bakery and add anise seed. I will definetely try your recipe from scratch with the oil and eggs in my next bake.

  • I made the ciambelle today and they turned out exactly like how my Nonna used to make them. I’ve been trying to find the recipe forever since she passed away because she only new hers by heart. I’ve tried other family members and they were never exactly like how I remember them until I made these.

Leave a comment

Tomato-growing, family-surrounded, big life and big laughs girl sorting out an Italian-Canadian life. Recipes are from the heart and the family vault. Learn more about this blog...

Sign up for updates from An Italian-Canada Life blog

Connect with me

Link to my Facebook Page
Recommend this page!
Link to my Pinterest Page
Link to my Rss Page
Link to my Twitter Page

My Instagr.am Gallery

Follow me on Twitter

Search the blog

© Laura D'Amelio and An Italian-Canadian Life, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Laura D'Amelio and An Italian-Canadian Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For permissions, please fill in the form on the contact page.