Friday, 3 February 2012

A Gondolier That Dislikes Carnival, Why I Love It & Carnival Doughnuts

Ask any gondolier about carnival and they go on and on and on about confetti!
Yes, confetti! Those millions of tiny colourful bits of paper.

I can always tell that Carnival has started, when Dino comes home, all grumpy and mumbling to himself. Once he has calmed down, he goes on to explain how a group of jolly costumed kids, urged on by snap-happy parents, bombarded him with handfuls of sinister shards of confetti from a bridge as he was passing under with his gondola. I tell him they're just having fun, it's Carnival... relax! He then proceeds to compare it to a situation, he thinks I can relate to... 
"How would you like someone to open your car door, empty a bag of shredded paper into it, and then laugh?" He goes on to inform me that gondoliers will still be removing these multicoloured specs of paper from their boats in six months time. What a big baby! So, hurling confetti into gondolas is a definite no no. Though it won't stop me!
Try it kid, make my day

For the 20 or so odd years that I have lived here, I have seen my far share of this event. The dates change, depending when Easter falls. It happens each year, those 10 days prior to the beginning of lent, and as you may have guessed, it is all about excess. 
Lions of Venice
This time of year, thousands of people, come from all over the world, to have fun in Venice. The moment they hire a costume and slip on a glittering mask, they'll become part of the noise and mayhem. Suddenly, they no longer have a nationality, and are free to become Venetians, go to lavish balls in the palaces on the Grand Canal, eat and drink themselves silly. Exuberance is in the frosty air and everybody joins the fabulous chaos.       
 I also need my Carnival comfort foods, and most importantly, lots and lots sweet treats. 

What is just amasing about these treats, is that, they appear a week or two, prior to the beginning of the festivities, and then, on Ash Wednesday, they all disappear, only to seen again the following year.

These sugary delights include:
"Frittelle”- "Carnival Doughnuts" made with sultanas or/and pine nuts or/and bits of apple, they are either plain, rolled only in sugar, or with an amazing cream filling and rolled in sugar.
"Galani"- "Carnival Wafers"  are thin shortbread sheets dusted with mountains of icing sugar.
"Castagnole"- are small, heavy dough balls, coated in sugar, they resemble in texture, and in flavour,  a traditional doughnut. 
All of the these treats are fried in oil, I have been told in confidence, that palm oil is the best (I can't find it here), as they don't absorb the oil as much, but basically any vegetable oil will do, and seeing that once lent begins we need to abstain from such indulgences, we tend, therefore, to go a little crazy just before.

Every bar, caffè, pastry shop, supermarket and household, have these goodies in a plentiful supply, I mean, we need to keep warm somehow!

Ask any Venetian, and they all have their favourite goody. There are those who prefer their "frittelle" plain, or with a light vanilla custard, or with a pistachio mousse. Naturally, the filled "frittelle" are my favourite and as I have decided to risk my ever so expanding waistline, I have attempted over the years to find the "bestest" pasticceria (pastry shop) in Venice. Don't get me wrong, they are all basically fabulous, however some, are a touch better.

"Pasticceria Bucintoro" - 2229 San Polo,  the "fritelle" are quite spectacular, try their chantilly filled delights, the husband and wife team are just terrific, AND, they still only charge 1 euro.
"Pasticceria Tonolo" - 3764 Calle dei Preti, Dorsoduro, the espresso and the traditional "frittelle" are superb ( be prepared for a fight !!)  
and...  if you happen to be on the island of Lido di Venezia, 
"Pasticceria Marcorich"- Via Sandro Gallo 120, has the most divine GALANI - no one, and I mean NO ONE beats them!!!! Worth a trip to the Lido.
So then, for all you poor folk who could not make it to Venice this year, here is the recipe. The problem is that you cannot just stop at one. They are quite addictive!!! Help!!!
Polly loves confetti!

Go to Carnival Doughnuts Recipe

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