Venetian Carnival Fritters with Pastry Cream

Buon Martedi Grasso, Happy Fat Tuesday, everyone! Today we’re making sure we have just a little fat for Fat Tuesday with Venetian fritters (frittelle) filled with pastry cream. I’ve been in Venice for the last week, celebrating one of my favorite holidays Venetian style with my friend Monica from Cook in Venice.  I’ve had an amazing time with her cooking, eating, drinking, meeting her friends and wandering through the calle of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

 

Monica of Cook in Venice
In the kitchen with Monica

Carnival isn’t only masks and costumes; a huge part of the celebration are the fried pastries,  frittelle and galani. Meant to be part of the last bit of indulgences before the Lenten season starts, you’ll find both of these pastries everywhere during Carnival season. They are piled high and on display in all the pastry shop and bakery windows, served as the complimentary end to every restaurant meal, and given to me at every home I’ve visited this week. I’ve lost track of the many variations of frittelle I’ve seen in pastry cases. The filling possibilities: pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream, Nutella, zabaglione, whipped cream with strawberry puree, and ricotta cream or no filling at all. Different recipes; a yeast dough, a dough with ricotta, one with yogurt and chocolate chips, pate a choux dough. Of course, there is the traditional Venetian recipe, too, one with golden raisins and pine nuts. It seems there is only one requisite to frittelle, and that is that the dough is fried.

Not only have I been sampling many of these versions, I’ve also been making some. First thing we did after Monica picked me up at the airport last Thursday was make our first batch of frittelle. This version is a choux paste dough that we filled with pastry cream. A slightly crunchy outer crust encases a sweet soft dough, one we’ve made even softer by filling them just until they’re ready to burst with even softer pastry cream. They’re finished off with a sprinkling of powder sugar.

 

Inside a frittelle Venetian carnival Fritter

 

Monica, who offers daily cooking-classes and Cicchetti food tours at Cook in Venice, is happy to add frittelle to any class menu, on request, during Carnival. Until you take one of Monica’s fun and delicious classes, you can have a little sample by making her recipe for frittelle below.

A few tips from Monica: Don’t make the frittelle too big. You should put no more than a teaspoon in the frying oil. As they cook, they will double in size. Don’t try to make a perfect ball. They are not supposed to be perfect orbs; that’s part of their charm. Just scrape the teaspoon of dough into the oil and let it create its own shape. Make the pastry cream first and let it chill in the refridgerator. While the pastry cream is chilling, make the dough and fry it.

 

Venetian Frittelle in the fryer

Frittelle

Venetian Carnival Fritters filled with pastry cream

 

 

Frittelle Veneziane alla Crema {Venetian Carnival Fritters with Pastry Cream}

(This is Monica’s recipe for frittelle; you can find the original here, and my adaptation for the pastry cream)

(makes about 40 frittelle)

 For the frittelle:

1 cup (250 ml) water

4 tablespoons (60 g) butter

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (150 g) all-purpose flour

3 eggs, room temperature

 

For the pastry cream:

2 cups (500 ml) whole milk

3/4 cups (150 g) granulated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/4 cup (35 g) all-purpose flour

1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

 

To make the frittelle:  In a sauce pot, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a rolling boil.  Keep the mixture on the heat until it has expanded and then fallen.  Remove from the heat, and pour the flour in all at once.  Stir vigorously until the mixture becomes a ball.  Place back over medium-low heat and continue stirring about 5 minutes to dry out the dough.  Remove from the heat and stir until you no longer see steam rising from the dough.  Stir in one egg at a time.  The dough will break up into pieces and come back together as you incorporate each egg. 

To make the pastry cream:  In a saucepan, scald the milk, bringing it just to a boil where you see little bubbles appear around the side of the pan. In the meantime in another bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture becomes pale. Add the flour and vanilla and whisk to combine.

When the milk comes to a scald, slowly pour the warmed milk into the egg yolk mixture (pour in a slow steady stream so not to scramble the eggs).  Whisk together as you pour.  Once all the milk and egg yolk mixtures are combined, place back into the saucepot and over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, whisking vigorously the entire time.  Once the mixture has boiled, cook for another 2 minutes, again stirring the entire time.  Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Add the butter cubes to the top of the warm pastry cream, stirring in once the butter has melted. Place the bowl into an ice bath and let cool for 10 minutes.  Spread the pastry cream into its own glass dish (9×13) and cover with plastic wrap.  The plastic wrap should be touching the pastry cream to keep the cream from developing a film.  Refrigerate until cold.

Frying the frittelle:  In a deep pan for frying, heat the oil to 350°F. Use two teaspoons; with one take a teaspoon full of dough and with the other lift the dough off the teaspoon and into the oil. (The frittelle will expand to about double in size as they cook.) Do not crowd the frying pan (Monica put 8 in at a time) so you don’t lower the temperature of the oil and the frittelle cook properly. Once one side has expanded, turn the frittelle over, if they don’t flip over themselves. Fry until a light golden brown, about 4-5 minutes. You should turn them over twice more while they are cooking to make sure they get golden and cooked on both sides. When they are done, place on a plate topped with a few paper towels and let cool.

Filling the frittelle: Once the frittelle have cooled and the pastry cream is completely cold, they are ready to be filled. Using the point of a paring knife, cut little slits about ½-inch wide into the tops of each frittelle. Using a pastry bag and round pastry tip about a ½-inch in diameter, fill each frittella full with pastry cream. After you’ve filled them all, dust them with powdered sugar. Buon Appetito e Buon Carnevale!! (I dare you to eat only one)

 

Carnival Costumes in Venice 2014

Venice Carnival photo of the day

  Venice as Aqua Alta rolls in

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