Grappa or acquavite is the secret ingredient found in the original form of funnel cakes, a dessert made on farms in the south Tyrol of Italy in the Dolomites. Traditionally prepared to celebrate a young couple’s engagement, here’s the furtaies or strauben recipe from the Ciablun farm, which provides us with this great treat after a long walk among wildflowers in the Dolomites.
- 1 cup (250 ml) milk
- 1 ½ cups (200 grams) flour
- ¾ oz. (20 grams) of melted butter
- 2 TB (20 ml) grappa, acquavite or schnapps
- Pinch of salt
- 3 eggs, separated
- Confectioner’s sugar
- A tart jam such as red currant or sour cherry
- Oil for frying
Place the milk in a large bowl, and gradually sift the flour into the milk, mixing it with a whisk so that there are no lumps. Beat in salt, melted butter, egg yolks and grappa to make a smooth batter.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, and thoroughly fold them into the batter.
In a high-sided frying pan, heat about 2 inches of oil to 340° F (170° C) – I use peanut oil.
Place your finger over the hole at the bottom of the funnel, and pour a ladleful of batter into the funnel. Being careful not to burn yourself, hold the funnel over the center of the hot oil, and release your finger from the hole, so that the batter begins to pour out into the hot oil. (A funnel traditionally used for this recipe has a long horizontal handle, which makes this process easier. You can also try cutting the bottom from a plastic water bottle, and filling it with the batter, removing the cap when ready to pour.) Move the funnel in a circular motion from the center outwards – don’t worry if you crisscross or it doesn’t look perfect– the origin of the word straubenmeans “messy”.
When the batter is a dark golden brown on one side, carefully turn it over, using 2 spatulas so that the oil doesn’t splash. Fry for another 2-3 minutes. Drain the funnel cake on absorbent paper.
Place the strauben on a serving plate, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and place a big dollop of tart jam in the center. This recipe makes about 8.
The spelling and names for this dessert are numerous in the Dolomites, especially in the tri-lingual Ladin area of the Val Badia. Eat the furtaies / fortaies / strauben /stràuli / stràboli / funnel cakes with your hands while still warm, tearing off hunks and dipping them into the jam.
I first tasted this dessert after a long walk in the Dolomites, when we stopped at a small farm and the cook happened to be making them as a special treat. This has now become a regular stop on our Wildflowers in the Dolomites tour. Furtaies funnel cakes are traditionally topped with a tart jam of mirtilli rossi, or wild red bilberries, which have a taste similar to cranberries. You can substitute a red currant or sour cherry jam.