Fritole alla veneziana (Venetian Carnival Fritters)

Frankdessert, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, snack, Veneto34 Comments

Fritole

In Italy, Carnival, that last blast of excess before the austerity of the Lenten season, is known for fried foods of all sorts, especially sweet ones.

I grew up on Angelina’s chiacchiere, the fried dough ribbons typical of southern Italy and beyond, but in Venice and nearby Trieste, they make fritole, sometimes spelled frittole—lovely roundish fritters made with a soft, batter-like dough perfumed with liqueur and dotted with softened raisins and served with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. They may not replace chiacchiere in my affections, but they’re very good indeed.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

For the dough:

  • 400g (14 oz) AP flour
  • 3 tsp dry active yeast
  • 25g (4 or 5 heaping Tbs) sugar
  • A small pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) of rum (or other liqueur—see Notes)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk, or q.b.
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) raisins

For frying and serving:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Cover the raisins with warm water and a drizzle of rum if you like, and leave them to soak until they’ve softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Then mix in the eggs, rum and enough milk to form a very sticky, wet dough, with a texture almost as loose as a dense batter.  (A standing mixer makes short work of this.) Fold in the raisins so they are equally distributed throughout the dough.

Cover the bowl and set in a warm place for the dough to rise. Let it rest until the dough has doubled in volume and full of tiny bubbles.

Heat oil at least 5cm/2 inches deep in a deep fryer or large Dutch oven to 180C/350F. Drop in the dough by small spoonfuls, using one spoon to scoop up the sticky dough and another to slip it off the first spoon and into the hot oil. Deep fry until the dough balls are puffed up and golden brown.

Serve your fritole still warm, covered with confectioner’s sugar.

Fritole

Notes on Fritole

Yeast can be unpredictable. The time it will take for the dough to rise will depend on the yeast itself as well as the ambient temperature. In a cold winter kitchen, may take longer than the two hours called for here. It did for me. I had to wait a good three plus hours for the dough to double in bulk. It may help speed things up to proof the yeast by mixing it into warm (not hot) water and allowing it to sit for a few minutes, until it begins to foam. This “jump starts” the activation of the yeast. And if your oven has a bread proofing function, set very low at around 30C/85F, the temperature of a summer’s day, that would a great place to let your dough rise.

And while fritole are at their best while they’re still warm, they’re not half bad at room temperature, either. If you like, you can reheat them in the oven as well. If your oven has an air fry function, all the better.

Variations

The sweetness of rum works very well for making frittole, but recipes—I suspect the original version—call for grappa, while others call for anisette.

Besides this very basic version of fritole, more elaborate versions exist. Some call for a richer dough with more eggs and/or butter, in which case you’ll probably need less milk. Some make the dough much sweeter with more sugar. And in addition to raisins called for here, some recipes flavor the dough with ingredients like lemon zest, pine nuts, candied fruit, and spices such as cinnamon. Bakeries offer fritole stuffed with crema pasticcera in the manner of bignè di san Giuseppe.

And to save time, some recipes (especially the ones in English) call for baking powder instead of yeast. I personally don’t recommend it, however, as I find baking powder tends to lend a rather unpleasant metallic taste to the dough. And anyway, the slow rise you need with yeast brings out the flavors of the dough in way that quick-acting baking powder doesn’t manage to do.

 

Fritole alla veneziana (Venetian Carnival Fritters)

2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Fritole alla veneziana (Venetian Carnival Fritters)

Ingredients

    For the dough:
  • 400g (14 oz) AP flour
  • 3 tsp dry active yeast
  • 25g (4 or 5 heaping Tbs) sugar
  • A small pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) of rum (or other liqueur—see Notes)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk, or q.b.
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) raisins
  • For frying and serving:
  • Vegetable oil
  • Confectioner's sugar

Directions

  1. Cover the raisins with warm water and a drizzle of rum if you like, and leave them to soak until they've softened, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Then mix in the eggs, rum and enough milk to form a very sticky, wet dough, with a texture almost as loose as a dense batter.  (A standing mixer makes short work of this.) Fold in the raisins so they are equally distributed throughout the dough.
  3. Cover the bowl and set in a warm place for the dough to rise. Let it rest until the dough has doubled in volume and full of tiny bubbles.
  4. Heat oil at least 5cm/2 inches deep in a deep fryer or large Dutch oven to 180C/350F. Drop in the dough by small spoonfuls, using one spoon to scoop up the sticky dough and another to slip it off the first spoon and into the hot oil. Deep fry until the dough balls are puffed up and golden brown.
  5. Serve your fritole still warm, covered with confectioner's sugar.
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34 Comments on “Fritole alla veneziana (Venetian Carnival Fritters)”

  1. A Trieste amiamo molto anche la versione salata delle fritole, si chiamano fritole con l’anima e dentro c’è un’acciuga !Un abbraccio

  2. Oh what I would do for a plate of these! I love learning what people eat for various celebrations in different cultures. Carnival or not, I would want to try this recipe! Rum with raisins is always such a delicious blend.

  3. Oh boy ! We had all kinds of Carneval food yesterday since it’s a bit hard to gather us all tomorrow. As a result, it seems we all have gained two pounds at least 🙂
    Thank you for this one Frank !

  4. Ah! I totally see where the New Orleans beignet has it’s roots. (After all, Mardi Gras has it’s roots in Venice, too…so it makes total sense.) I absolutely love Venice, but I haven’t had the opportunity to travel there during Carnival. That’s on my bucket list for sure. In the meantime, though, these fritole sound like a great way to celebrate the season! Thanks for sharing this one, Frank!

  5. Those are delicious and reminded us of loukoumades, that are served in Greece during fairs for religious occasions in villages. Your recipe has raisins and rum however, which is something we haven’t used before and are really looking forward to. The carnival tradition is the same, an excess before Lent, exactly like you mentioned! Thanx so much for another delicious recipe Frank, pinned!

    1. Interesting! The Italians use the word “krapfen” for what we might call doughnuts. Similar dough, shaped into rounds with marmellade in between them, then sealed and fried. Sounds similar? Also very popular at Carnival time. Should blog about it next year…

  6. I think most cuisines have some kind of fried dough (often multiple recipes). Love the stuff! This looks like some of the best I’ve seen — really nice. I’ve been to Venice, but never in Carnival season. Understand it’s a blast! Need to go sometime to see all the costumes, and of course eat these. 🙂

    1. Very true about fried dough, John. And it’s not hard to figure out why! I’ve never been to Venice at Carnival time, either, even when I was living in Italy. I have a real aversion to crowds. But I bet it’s a real trip, something we should all experience at least once, I think.

  7. This brings back such beautiful memories. My mamma made them every year for Christmas Eve. I’ve never made them — she did it from memory and feel. I’m going to have to carry on the tradition. Thank you, Frank. This is a treasured recipe. Buon weekend.

    1. So glad I could bring back those precious memories, Marisa. And perhaps help to revive a family tradition? Have a great weekend!

  8. If I want these, I am going to have to up my deep frying game, aren’t I ? Not my strongest suit…

    They sound amazing, Frank, and I promise you I will try them soon!

    1. Really? An Italian food lover who doesn’t fry? That sounds like an oxymoron. 😉 Seriously, though, it is worth getting out the deep fryer for this one.

  9. Although I’m normally not a great fan of limoncello, I have a suspicion it might be good in this, in place of the rum and raisins. Is that allowed?

    1. Indeed it is. If you read Italian, here’s the recipe. Although you don’t really need it, just substitute for the rum and raisins and you’re good to go. And since limoncello already has lots of sugar, you can go easy on that. Enjoy!

  10. Frank, if I’m going to have a sweet treat this is the kind I look for. We have a formal “fika” (think English high tea) gathering we’re hosting soon and I think these will fit in well. I was planning to have the hot oil on anyway to make our munkar which is similar (no raisin) to your fritole, but with cream or apple filling after frying. I think the rum soaked raisins sound wonderful in the Italian fritole. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Munkar do sound a lot like these fritole, and in factthere are even cream and apple filled variations. As someone else commented, practically every culture has some form of fried dough. And it’s not difficult to figure out why… 😉

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