Grandma’s fritole are soft, pillowy and perfumed with anise and citrus.

Makes
15 - 25

Preparation

15min

Cooking

10min

Skill level

Easy
By
Average: 5 (1 vote)

The big Venetian carnival fry-up plot unfolds every year in a similar way. On the night before Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, the phone rings. It’s Grandma. She’s made fritole, she says, screaming into the receiver as usual, sure that I’ll hear her better if she does. ‘Can you come and pick them up?’ she asks. I look outside: it’s a gloomy, wet, foggy February night; but then again, yes, I could make the effort for a bowl of doughnuts.

I bundle up and go out. Grandma lives down the road from us, a one-minute walk door to door. I find her downstairs, as always when she’s spent the whole day cooking. She’s busy cleaning up, traces of sugar on the floor. The air is filled with a biting scent, a mix of yeast and exhausted frying oil. On the table are three small platoons of aluminium trays neatly covered with flowery kitchen paper. She grabs a tray from each group and presses them into my hands: one filled with paper-thin squares (crostoli); one with walnut-sized balls (favette), and one with a pile of spongy, pillowy fritole. ‘I thought you just made fritole?’ ‘Yes, well, since I had the oil going . . . ’

Venetians are religious about their Carnival. It’s a century-old recurrence that can’t be ignored, not just in the city but in the countryside, too. Kids dress up and parade, and everybody stuffs their faces with fried treats. I like the Carnival triplet of crostoli, favette and fritole (or frittelle), and I like that Grandma has taken on the chore of frying up a storm for the whole family, year in and year out. Of the three, fritole are her strongest — soft, perfumed with anise and citrus, and surprisingly un-greasy. I’m happy to be sharing her recipe here.

Ingredients

  • 150 g (1 cup) raisins
  • 120 ml (½ cup) grappa (see Note)
  • 400 g (3⅓ cups) plain flour, sifted
  • 10 g (3¼) tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 160 ml (⅔ cup) whole milk, lukewarm, or as needed
  • 40 g (¼ cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 60 g (⅓ cup) candied citrus peel (optional)
  • Sunflower oil, for frying

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Rising time: 2 hours

Soak the raisins in grappa and let them plump up for 20 minutes, then drain well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and lukewarm milk and work them into the dry ingredients. Next stir in the raisins, pine nuts, grated lemon zest and candied citrus peel, if using. Knead the dough until it looks even, elastic and smooth (add a little more milk if it appears too dry; it should be fairly sticky). Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a dry, warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in volume and the surface is full of tiny bubbles.

Fill two-thirds of a medium, high-sided frying pan with sunflower oil. Place it over a medium heat and wait until it reaches a temperature of 180°C (350°F), which you can test with a thermometer or by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil; when small but fierce bubbles form around the handle, it’s ready. Using 2 tablespoons, grab a spoonful of dough and slide it into the hot oil. Fry 6–7 frìtole at a time, turning with a slotted spoon, until dark brown on all sides. Drain with the slotted spoon and transfer to a large plate covered with kitchen paper. 

Leave the frìtole to cool slightly before rolling them in plenty of granulated sugar. Enjoy them warm or within 12 hours of frying. 

 

Notes:
• Some like using anise liqueur instead of grappa for soaking the raisins: it’ll definitely increase the aromatic potential of these frìtole, though you must like anise in the first place.

• Candied citrus peel and pine nuts are often omitted in traditional recipes, while raisins are often present: my suggestion would be to find the combination you like the best.

 

Recipe from Veneto: Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber, hb, $39.99).