Fried chestnuts are a carnival dessert very widespread, often with different local names. They are called damsel in most of the central-northern regions and precisely in Lazio, Marche, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria and in part of Veneto, Lombardy, Abruzzo and Umbria. In other places they are known as broad beans, tortelli, friedle, Zeppole, strufoli, caragnolos and certainly under other names as well.
It is a dessert with truly ancient origins: its comings and goings go back to frictilythe fried sweets seasoned with honey that the ancient Romans prepared during the Saturnalia, the orgiastic and carnival celebrations in honor of Saturn. However, compared to today, they were more salty than sweet, as evidenced by the recipe for Castagnole Romagnole published by Artusi in his recipe book of 1891 (see recipes here Artusi’s Carnival Chestnuts (1891))
The fried castagnole that we propose are typical of Rome and Lazio, which are actually widespread in all regions of the Center, and particularly in Marche. The dough is also similar to that of Neapolitan struffoli.
In this basic recipe the possible variations are numerous. For the final decoration, for example, in addition to sugar (granulated or icing or even vanilla) you can use coconut flour or colored sprinkles. You can add a little ricotta to the dough (100 g in our case) or a couple of tablespoons of toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds. By preparing the fried chestnuts a little larger, it is also possible to fill them, before serving, with ricotta mousse, custard or chocolate cream. In the case of spirits, then, you can treat yourself to a wide range of options.
- 350 g white flour
- 3 eggs
- 100 grams of sugar
- 1 sachet baking powder for desserts
- Zest of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of mistrà or white alchermes (optional)
- oil for frying
- In a bowl we mix the sugar and eggs, beating them vigorously for a couple of minutes, add the yeast, the lemon zest and, if we want, the tablespoon of liqueur. Mix quickly and then add the flour little by little, continuing to mix until a mixture without lumps, smooth and homogeneous is formed.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for approximately 30-60 minutes in a draft-free environment. The oven is also fine, closed and obviously turned off.
- Take the dough and knead it again for about ten minutes to soften it. Make round balls (or loaves of bread to cut into pieces, or take small pieces from time to time with a spoon… the shape doesn’t matter, but keep in mind that they will swell a little when frying) and put them in the pan where They are already sautéing abundantly in oil. Using a wooden spoon, turn the chestnuts in the oil so they brown evenly on each side and for a similar amount of time.
- Drain the fried chestnuts with the appropriate strainer and let them dry on sheets of kitchen paper. While they are still hot, sprinkle them with granulated sugar. Serve warm or slightly warmed.