Fritole (Venetian Doughnuts)

A decadent recipe for traditional fritole, a typical Venetian doughnut, from 'Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking' by Russell Norman. This sweet delicacy is irresistible with a morning coffee or as an afternoon treat.

From the book

Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by
Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking
Authentic Venetian dishes across all four seasons
Delicious pasta and risotto recipes
Stunning food and travel photography

Introduction

After the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year, Venice can feel a little drab and empty. Many of the good restaurants close, and a lot of residents spend time with their extended families on the mainland. The days are cold and short and January in particular feels like a month that is neither here nor there. Thank god, then, for doughnuts.

In the run-up to carnevale (always on, before and beyond Shrove Tuesday) the caffès, bakeries and cake shops start to make fritole, typically Venetian street doughnuts, a tradition that goes back centuries. They are uneven and clumsy, packed with fruit and covered with sugar, but incredibly moreish and essential with my morning coffee. It’s the best way I know to get through the winter blues.

Makes 20 or so

Ingredients

100g caster sugar
2 sachets (15g) dried yeast
500g '00' flour
2 medium eggs, whisked
whole milk
100g sultanas
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
fine salt
1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Instructions

Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar in a cup of warm water and stir in the dried yeast. Place the flour in a very large mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the eggs, 75g of the sugar and the yeast water. Now, continuing to stir, add enough milk a little at a time to create a soft and loose dough. Add the sultanas, the zest and a pinch of salt, mix thoroughly until the dough is pliable and springy, then cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, probably to double its original size, heat the vegetable oil to around 190˚C in a large saucepan. You can test this by dropping a small cube of white bread in the pan – it should turn golden brown in 20 seconds.

Scoop out a dessertspoonful of the dough at a time and drop into the hot oil. Make sure you don’t overload the pan. The doughnuts should start to turn golden after a couple of minutes.

Turn them over with a slotted spoon for another couple of minutes on the other side (5 to 6 minutes in total), then remove from the oil on to several sheets of kitchen paper. While they are still hot, sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar and serve immediately, or set aside in a warm place and serve at room temperature when you are ready.

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