Fried custard cream – crema fritta
Crema fritta is a carnival sweet typical from Verona and Venice. It’s a thick custard cream breaded and fried. When I was little I used to go to Piazza Erbe and press my nose against the glass of the stand selling crema fritta and dream of having a piece. My mother wasn’t that big on sweets so she didn’t buy it often. When I had the pleasure to hold a piece of it in my hands I was on top of the world.
I always thought that crema fritta was difficult to make until my mother gave me this recipe. Every year on Venerdì Gnocolar (Gnocchi’s Friday) there’s always a plate of crunchy crema fritta on our table.
In Italy we mainly serve this dessert during the carnival season, as well as all the other carnival sweets, until Lent starts. There’s an interruption on Mid-Lent (Mezza Quaresima) when these delicious treats are permitted again. In any case crema fritta is a dessert that can be served during the winter to bring cheer to your dinner, especially if there are kids involved. I assure you, it really makes you smile.
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
2 1/4 cups + 3 Tbsp. whole milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
lemon zest from 1/8 of a lemon
1 Tbsp. butter
about 1 cup dry bread crumbs
peanut oil or light olive oil for frying
1. Whisk the 3 egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla until fluffy and lighter in color.
2. Add flour to the egg mixture and mix the batter with a wooden spoon.
3. Pour the milk a little bit at the time in the egg mixture mixing well.
4. Pour the liquid in a pan, add the lemon zest and start cooking it at a low temperature. Stir it often. It will take about 20 minutes to thicken. When the custard cream will start to thicken it will become suddenly full of lumps. Don’t panic but start mixing it with more energy until smooth and turn it off. Don’t let the cream boil!
5. When cooked, add the butter and eliminate the lemon zest. Spread the custard on a serving plate giving it a rectangular shape, about 3/4 of an inch thick. Use a knife or a metal spatula to smooth it down. Let the cream cool.*
6. Cut the custard cream in diamond shapes.
7. Now whip the remaining egg whites until stiff peaks form, set them in a bowl and place the dry bread crumbs on a plate.
8. Heat up the oil to 350° in a deep pan and while the oil is warming up, prepare the crema fritta.
9. Dip the custard diamonds into egg whites and then dredge them into the bread crumbs.
10. Fry a few pieces at the time until golden brown. Remove with care from the oil and place the crema fritta on paper towels.
11. Sprinkle the crema fritta pieces with powdered sugar and serve warm.
* At this point cream can be covered and refrigerated. You can then finish preparing them the day after if you want.