This dessert has been popular in Venice since the days of old. Jews have lived in Venice since for so many centuries that nowadays it’s often hard to tell which Venetian recipes have Jewish origins, and viceversa. However, this fried custard bears a resemblance to a Spanish dessert, and some think that it must have been introduced by the Spanish Jews. All Venetians love “Crema fritta”! It’s very popular during the famous Carnival, and as a fried dessert it’s perfect for Hanukkah. It can be served hot or cold.
- 2 cups milk (for a parve version, use parve almond or soy milk)
- 1 scant cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup potato starch or cornstarch
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 orange or lemon peel
- a pinch of salt
- Mild olive oil, or peanut oil for frying
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup flour (if you like a thicker coating)
Boil the milk with the lemon zest and allow it to cool down for a few minutes (very warm is OK, but you don’t want it so hot that it will boil the eggs). Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt. Slowly blend in the potato starch or cornstarch, then the flour, and gradually add the milk (discarding the zest). When everything is combined well, put it back on the flame and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until it thickens, stirring continuously with a whisk. Line a baking tray with plastic wrap (or parchment soaked in water), and
pour the custard into the tray, spreading it evenly with a spatula or large spoon. Allow it to cool completely. Cut the custard into diamonds or squares (about 2” by 2”) with a wet knife, rewetting the blade before cutting each line. Now for the coating there are two schools of thoughts, just like with schnitzel. For minimalistic, thin coating: just dip the pieces into breadcrumbs and fry (I’m a classicist and I prefer this version). If you like a thicker, crunchier coating, beat the 3 egg whites lightly in one small bowl; place some flour in a second bowl, and breadcrumbs in a third. Dip the custard squares in the flour, then in the egg whites, last in the breadcrumbs. Pour plenty of oil in a wide, heavy pan with tall sides. Yes, I said plenty - the oil should be at least 3” high! Don’t think you’ll save calories by skimping on the oil: if you use too little, the food will quickly cool the oil down, with the result that your fried treats won’t form a crust quickly but they will absorb a ton of oil instead. The oil will be ready for frying when a piece of bread dropped into the pan will be immediately surrounded by many little bubbles, without burning. Fry the squares in batches, turning them quickly so that they brown uniformly on both sides. Dry on a double layer of paper towel, and serve hot. Yum!