Crema Fritta Alla Veneziana, Venetian Style Fried Cream, traditional street food enjoyed throughout Veneto, Italy, is going to knock your socks off! Fried desserts (in my opinion) are the ultimate indulgence (or is chocolate? hmm…) and this one is absolutely sinful. The crispy golden coating tempts you but the oozing creamy center will have you begging for more especially if you enjoy the taste of vanilla.
I infused the vanilla in the crema pasticcera (pastry cream) for longer than usual and the rich flavor of vanilla lingers on the palette, magnificent.
These fried pastries are typically prepared during the Christmas season and Carnevale, Italian Winter Festival. Carnevale is one of largest festivals celebrated in Italy and the celebration in Venice is among the most popular and best-known carnivals in the world. I have yet to partake in Carnevale but I hope to remedy that one day – very soon! Carnevale falls on Shrove Tuesday but the festivities are celebrated throughout Italy for weeks prior to the official date.
- Bocconcini di Crema Pasticerra (Pasty Cream Pieces)
- Panatura per la Crema Fritta (Fried Cream Crumb Coating)
For the Pasty Cream Pieces (Bocconcini di Crema Pasticerra)
- 650 ml (2¾ cups) whole milk
- 120 ml (½ cup) heavy cream, 35%
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
- Orange peel, 4 x 1-inch strips, pith removed (or lemon zest if you prefer)
- 100 g (¾ cup + ¾ tablespoon) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
- 40 g (¼ cup) cornstarch, sifted
- 6 large eggs, separated, room temperature, reserve 4 whites, and store remaining whites for another use
- 175 g (¾ cup + ½ tablespoon) caster (superfine) sugar
- In a medium saucepan, bring milk, cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds, and orange peel just to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and allow vanilla and orange to infuse 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour and cornstarch together onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper, set aside. Line a 23 x 33-cm (9 x 13-inch) baking dish first with plastic wrap (two sheets are best making sure the sheets are long enough to be able the wrap the pastry cream block) and then non-stick baking paper (baking paper should fit snuggly in the base and up the sides of the baking dish).
- In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale.
- Gradually add the flour-cornstarch mixture and whisk together. The mixture will be very thick, if necessary switch to a wooden spoon and stir until combined well.
- Remove the vanilla pod and orange zest strips from the hot milk mixture.
- Gradually stream the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly until combined well and the mixture is smooth (no lumps).
- Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. As the pastry cream begins to thicken switch to a wooden spoon or flexible rubber spatula and stir vigorously until thickened, about 5 minutes. (Do not be alarmed with the consistency of this pastry cream it is much thicker than the usual pastry cream. It is very important to cook out the flour and cornstarch. Carefully taste (it’s very hot) the mixture and if you can taste the flour or cornstarch keep the mixture on the heat, stirring continuously until the flour/cornstarch is cooked out.)
- Remove from heat and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Using an offset spatula spread the pastry cream evenly to the sides. Grasp both sides of the plastic wrap and lift the pastry cream block out of the baking dish. Set another sheet of non-stick baking paper on top and using a rolling pin smooth out the cream evenly, making sure the thickness of the block is uniform to the edges.
- Keep the baking paper on top and wrap the block of pastry cream with the plastic. Carefully transfer the pastry cream block to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Remove pastry cream block from the refrigerator and cut into 4-cm (1½-inch) pieces, preferably diamond shaped.
For the Fried Cream Crumb Coating (Panatura per la Crema Fritta)
- 63 g (½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
- 100 g breadcrumbs, finely ground or semolina flour
- 50 g almond slices, toasted, chilled in the freezer (to prevent the oils from coming out when grinding) and finely ground
- Prepare three shallow bowls for dredging the pastry cream pieces. Place the flour in the first bowl. Place the egg whites in the second bowl and lightly beat with a fork or whisk.
- Place the breadcrumbs or semolina and ground almonds in the last bowl and stir to combine well.
Assembling and Deep-Frying Crema Fritta
- Olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil (traditionally olive oil is used for deep frying the bocconcini of pastry cream)
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Fill a heavy saucepan with 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 180° C (350° F) over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, to drain the excess oil, line a baking dish with 3 to 4 layers of paper towel, set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Dredge each piece of pastry cream first in flour, then egg whites and finally in breadcrumb or semolina and almond crumb coating. Place on prepared baking sheet.
- When oil comes to temperature, fry 4 to 5 pieces (to maintain the temperature of the oil do not fry more than 4 or 5 pieces at-a-time) of coated pastry cream until golden on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes total cooking time. Using a slotted spoon or spider transfer to a prepared dish to drain excess oil. Repeat with remaining pieces.
- Serve warm dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
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