Fritule, sweet mini fritters, are almost emblematic of Croatia and its cuisine. You can succumb to them anytime, summer or winter. And anywhere: Dalmatia, Istria or the continent...
But it wasn’t always like this. First off, fritule came to us from across the Adriatic sea. More precisely, they are a sibling of Venetian doughnuts.
These frittelle or fritole were mostly fried during the carnival time, hence also the name frittelle di carnevale.
When Croatian fritters docked on our side of the Adriatic, the locals fell for them through and through. We now enjoy them at any and all festive occasions. Think Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, but also throughout summer. They are our go-to street food.
Which is the right fritule recipe?
Well, that’s a great question. Because there are so many out there. Real fritule, Dalmatian ones, Istrian ones, the fake ones, the kind with apples, etc.
Some ingredients and steps are a must and others can be moved around.
Fritule are mini doughnuts, which means fried yeast dough. So to make them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, we need a shot of alcohol. Croatian rakija (grappa) is your best friend because it prevents the dough from sopping up oil.
Next, because we are dealing with festive pastry, we need spices that sing holiday songs to us. Fritule burst with citrus notes from lemon and orange zest.
And on top of that shot of rakija, we also add more alcohol for flavour. Choose Maraschino, rose liqueur or any other clear fragrant liqueur.
Don’t worry about your kids getting drunk. Alcohol evaporates during frying.
Now the variations. Let’s start with the least authentic fritule.
The so called quick or fake fritule use baking powder and yoghurt to puff up. Apples are often added to make them softer.
Classic yeast dough version is the most common. It’s also the variation closest to frittelle veneziane.
The oldest and most authentic fritule recipe in Croatia is with potatoes. Yup!
These are called dalmatinske fritule (Dalmatian type). They are a mixture of mashed potatoes and yeast dough. Raisins go in as well, plus all the musts from above.
In the past, potatoes were used out of scarcity. In Dalmatia, wheat was harder to grow than potatoes. So, flour was precious. Potato acts as a great filler. It bulks up the dough but it also makes it softer.
Making fritule with potatoes takes more time. It’s definitely not the quick version. But when you taste them, you’ll notice the difference. Potatoes and flour create an emulsion which takes the flavours to the next level. Your mouth will explode as soon as that ball of dough hits your tongue.
Dalmatian fritule with potatoes take quite some time. They are not the easiest to make. But they are the real deal.
Let's dig in.
- 500 g potatoes (1 lb)
- 200 g all-purpose flour (1 ⅓ cup)
- 7 g dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
- 50 ml warm water (¼ cup)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 70 ml Maraschino or rose liqueur (¼ cup)
- 30 ml rakija or vodka (2 tbsp)
- 50 g raisins (⅓ cup)
- 1 zest lemon and orange
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 l sunflower or canola oil for frying
- ½ cup powdered sugar for dusting
- Soak raisins in Maraschino, the sooner the better.
- Peel, cube and boil potatoes in lightly salted water. Drain well. Mash while still warm.
- Combine yeast, warm water, pinch of sugar and flour (both from original amounts) and let stand until activated (20 min). This is called yeast sponge.
- Whisk egg, egg yolk and sugar. Add to mashed potatoes and blitz with the immersion blender to get a smooth mixture.
- Add in plumped up raisins with Maraschino, rakija, yeast sponge, and lemon and orange zest. Stir to combine.
- Stir salt and cinnamon into flour and begin adding that into the main batter. Do it gradually and whisk in between.
- Using a wooden spoon, ‘beat’ the dough vigorously to make it smoother and to incorporate more air in. Do it until you see little bubbles on the surface. Or until your biceps burn like hell!
- Cover with cloth and let stand for 1 hour until it doubles in volume.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan to moderate but even heat. Form tiny, bite-sized dough balls with 2 teaspoons and drop them in the hot oil. Fry in batches and don’t overcrowd the pan.
- Stir them frequently and fry them until they get crispy and dark golden. Place them on a paper towel.
- Serve warm and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Every baba, baka or nona can whip up fritule in no time. But this is experience talking. If you’ve never made Croatian mini donuts, pay attention to these things:
1. Have your oil on medium but constant heat. Fritule are perfect when they are golden and crunchy on the outside. But they mustn’t remain soggy inside.
2. Try to make them on the smaller side. Large dough balls might stay raw inside.
3. Drain them well on the paper tower and don’t stack them together.
Last, but not the least. Let’s learn how to pronounce fritule. It’s free-too-leh.
Still, don’t be surprised if you run into other names for the same dessert across Croatia. In the south of Dalmatia fritule go under the names of pršurate or prikle. On the continent, the same fried pastry is calle mišići (tiny mouse) because they have that little tail from frying.
If you’re wondering how many calories these fried delights will cost you – don’t. You must get into the fritule state of mind, which means stop counting how many you gobble up.
Why stop at fritule for Christmas? In my Croatian Desserts cookbook you’ll find many more festive cookies and cakes. Treat yourself or someone else to a copy.