Carnevale in Pasticceria

Above you can see what a typical morning in early February is like while Venice is getting ready for the day ahead. Baking fritole doesn’t take too long, so while taking a coffee and waiting for the fog to lift, we spend some time looking up all the recipes for fritole. Ancient ones, and the original ones. Taking a look at a new book published by Caffé Florian, xx.

While going through the cook books and recipe journals, we can just marvel at the incredible amount of recipes for sweets and cakes Venice has to offer. You still get a few in the bar-caffés in town, or in family-led restaurants. Most of these recipes aren’t too complicated, and that also applies to the most ancient recipe of sweet Venice has inherited – la fritoa. Call them frittelles in English, and frittelle in Italian, while in Venetian we call them fritola or fritoa.

Every family in Venice has developed their own version of this staple sweet, and a few have been blended with foreign recipes for similar yeast-based sweets, like the Austrian krafen. Our family has a family recipe as well, fritoe al suco de naransa, which are fritole flavored with juicy oranges of which you find quite a few varieties at the Rialto Market.. In addition to orange juice, we use a spice mixture to flavor them, and there’s a good reason. Originally, fritoe were flavored with saffron and rose water or with spices. In our case, cinnamon and a teaspoonful of lavender water which blends well with the other ingredients.

With so many fritoe variants available in Venice, the question is, which of these are historical. Which ones were eaten during Carnival at the times of the Serenissima Republic, and where can we still taste them in Venice?

The first fritole, fried in Venice in the 12th or 13th century, still showed the influence of Middle Eastern cooking, where the Venetian merchants, on their voyages along the “spice routes”, came across fried pastries, enriched with raisins and pine nut and syrups.

The original fritole – le veneziane – were flavored with rose water !! Take a look at the original recipe for fritole, which we have re-created here. These days, le veneziane come flavored with ground lemon peel or grappa. Sometimes, they are filled with cream like zabaione which is an invention of the 19th century.

From the late 18th century is the black fritola that I mentioned in my last post, when cocoa powder first came to Venice …. Now we’ve also got the fritola cubana – flavored with rhum – and it works, it feels warming when you walk around in the moist winter … I tasted la cubana at Pasticceria Bonifacio, in Calle Albanesi, next to my grandmother’s home.

I also saw fritole alle mele – fritole with little pieces of apple. Historically speaking, these are NOT fritole for Carnival but were eaten during Lent !! So yes, there will be another post on frittelles and other late winter sweet soon :-)

Ingredients: 180 gr flour (universal type), 8 gr yeast, 1/16 liter of milk, 1 egg, 3 spoonfuls of grappa, 1 spoonful of vanilla sugar, 10 gr butter, a hint of salt, 5 spoonfuls of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
Make the dough in a bowl, carefully working the yeast and one spoonful of granulated sugar into the warm milk. Add flour, grappa, vanilla sugar, butter and a hint of salt, mixing well all ingredients. Cover with a piece of cloth and leave in a warm place until the volume of the dough has doubled (takes approx. 1 hour). Take out spoonfuls of the dough and fry them in boiling sunflower oil, leave on a kitchen paper and finally coat the fritole with the rest of the granulated sugar and cinnamon powder.

To prepare fritoe a la naransa, you need 200 gr flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon poweder, a hint of salt, one egg, a tiny package of yeast, 10 gr peeled pine nuts, 10 gr sultanas, 50 gram sugar, two heaped tablespoons  vanilla sugar, one heaped table spoon of orange-flavored sugar (which we make a home, by simply grating off the orange peel and mixing it with sugar), one spoonful lavender water and three spoonfuls freshly pressed orange juice.

Mix all the ingredients listed before in a bow, then dissolve a small package of yeast in another bowl of 200 ml of warm milk. Slowly add the milk to the dough, stir well and leave it to rest and rise in a warm place, covered with a tablecloth, for approximately one hour. Heat sunflower or olive oil in a pan, then make tiny balls of dough with a spoon and bake them in the oil until they are goldn brown. Leave the balls to drain on kitchen paper. After a few minutes, roll the fritole in bowl with the orange sugar.

P.S: if we really have no time to make them at home, or if anyone wants a quick treat, we get ours from the bakery near Campo San Luca – Colussi Il Fornaio is my favorite, not just for fritole but in any case for focaccia and panettón … plus a host of other seasonal delights :-) You can see these fritole variety is not filled – but there are a hundred other varieties – with buco and not, flavored or not … for example, one could substitute grappa with rose water and in that manner prepare the original variant of fritole which is actually one of the oldest recipe the Republic of Venice has to offer us.

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