Crispy deep-fried cream doughnuts are a tradition not to be missed during the traditional carnival in Venice
What can I say about Venice that has not already been said?
There is truly no other place like Venice.
Dreamy canals lined by mediaeval palazzi, many little (and sometimes also larger) squares, hundreds of bridges, and off course the famous St. Mark’s Basilica tiled with Byzantine mosaics, along with the Campanile bell tower offering the most breath-taking views over the city once you have climbed up the 323 steps to the top.
It’s a magical place all year round, breathing history at any angle.
Yet at no time is Venice showing of its historic side more then during the local carnival season. Carnivale di Venezia goes back to the 11th century when the first public celebrations were hold in the last days prior to the Lent period. During the festivities, people put on costumes and masks to hide their class and status in the city, allowing mingling among the whole population.
The historic masks of Venice have become a flourishing trade in the city all year round, and undoubtedly one of the most thought-after souvenirs by visitors. But it’s during the carnival season when you will see people wearing them on the streets along with the historic costumes of medieval Venice the city reaches its most magical moment!
Masks and costumes aside, carnival in Venice is also the time for traditional sweets which are sold everywhere throughout the city. And there is a huge variety of them, one more delicious than the other.
So where to start?
I think you should definitely have a crema fritta!
Crunchy on the outside, yet perfectly soft inside, crema fritta is a classic Italian sweet that you will encounter in various regions across the country, year-round. Yet it’s particular popular in Venice during the local carnival season when it’s served as dessert at many local restaurants.
Don’t confuse it with the also popular fritole or fritelle who might look similar but are made from a soft dough while crema fritta is made on the basis of a firm custard.
Crema fritta translates into fried cream, and the custard is coated in egg batter and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried in oil. Which is a simple process yet can be a bit tricky as the custard is still more ‘fluid’ compared to working with dough. To make it work, you will need a bit of patience – and trust – when coating the cream.
The finished crema fritta is often served coated in sugar. However, you could also go a step further and serve it with a cold vanilla cream. It’s delicious.
Recipe: Crema Fritta with Vanilla Sauce
For the crema fritta
450 ml milk
1 vanilla pod
zest of one lemon
3 egg yolks
100 g sugar
40 g cornstarch
40 g all-purpose flour
1 liter neutal oil
breadcrumbs for coating
Add milk, vanilla seeds and pod, and the zest of one lemon to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat to a light simmer. Do not bring to boil.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and light in colour. Add cornstarch and flour and whisk to combine. Add 1/3 of the hot milk and stir to combine.
Pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk and continue to cook until it has turned into a thick, velvety custard, stirring constantly.
Pour the custard into a baking tin of about 22×22 cm lined with cling film. Set aside to let cool at a fresh place for about two hours (do not place into the fridge).
Once the custard has hardened a bit, using a spoon cut off small dumplings.
Heat the oil to 170°C.
Beat the remaining two eggs. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate.
Dip the custard dumplings first into the beaten eggs, then roll them in the breadcrumbs.
Carefully lower the dumplings into the oil and fry until golden-brown on all sides.
Transfer to a rack lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess fat.
Coat with sugar.
Serve still warm.
For the vanilla sauce
250 ml milk
250 ml heavy cream
1 vanilla pod
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
Mix cornstrach with 3 tablespoons of milk until smooth.
In a saucepan, add remaining milk, cream, vanilla seeds and pod, and pinch of salt and bring to boil over medium heat. Eliminate the vanilla pod, stir in the cornstarch mix and continue to cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar together. Ladle some of the warm milk-cream mixture into the egg yolks, while continuing to whisk.
Add back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly.
Set aside to let cool.
The vanilla sauce will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge.