With two weeks to go until Shrove Tuesday and the start of Lent, this is the time of the year to indulge in sweet treats. Here in UK it’s all about pancakes, but in Italy we have a tradition of eating doughnuts to celebrate the period before Lent, which also coincides with the Carnival festivities. In Trieste we call these doughnuts fritole and today I am sharing a family recipe to make them.
Regional variations of these little yummy balls of fried dough can be found all over Italy around January and February. Their names change depending on the region: frìtole, frittelle, zeppole, chiacchiere or castagnole (which you find in my hometown, Rome).
Fritole are doughnuts made with raisins (and sometimes pine nuts), orange and lemon zest, then fried until golden brown and sprinkled with sugar. They are eaten in and around the Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions in Italy as well as in Istria, Croatia.
I was in Trieste last month and on my my way to the airport I stopped at one of my favourite cafés and pastry shops. The pastry counter had several trays of fritole on display: with and without raisins, with a filling of cream or chocolate. I couldn’t resist eating one with my coffee! That’s when I decided I would go back home to London and make a batch of these delicious Fritole Triestine.
These Carnival doughnuts are bite-sized, around 4cm in diameter, and ideally should be eaten immediately after fried, or at least on the same day, otherwise they lose their crunch.
Makes around 40-50 small doughnuts.
- 350g plain flour
- 100g caster sugar (plus more for dusting)
- 2 sachets Lievito Pane degli Angeli (or 30g baking powder)
- pinch of salt
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 50-100g raisins
- 100ml rum
- 300g plain yoghurt
- 1/2 vanilla extract
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- vegetable oil for frying
Soak the raisins in the rum for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once plumped, drain the raisins and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk well. Add the eggs, mix well. Add the yoghurt, raisins, orange and lemon zests. Combine well. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set the dough aside to rise for 1 hour.
Heat oil in a wide pan with high sides to medium high heat. The ideal temperature for frying doughnuts is 170-180°C, so I used a cooking thermometer to check the exact time to fry.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out the dough and gently pour it into the hot oil. You should be able to try around 5-6 doughnuts at a time. When deep golden brown, flip each doughnut over and cook on the other side. Remove the doughnuts when evenly coloured and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Sprinkle with caster sugar.
For more Carnival recipes, try these Semlor, Swedish Lent Buns.