To celebrate the Carnevale Ambrosiano, here’s the recipe for Tortelli Alla Crema Pasticcera, deep fried puffs filled with custard, from Italy’s very own Cucchiaio D’Argento (The Silver Spoon), the one and only Italian cookbook :) These delicious puffs are also called Frittelle di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s frittelle) and are a traditional sweet on March 19.
GROCERY SHOPPING (6-8 people)
For 2 cups of pastry cream / custard
5.5 oz of flour
5.5 tbsp of sugar
2 cups of milk
– and a pastry bag to fill the puffs.
For the tortelli (pâte a choux dough)
1/2 stick of unsalted, organic butter (50g.)
8 oz of water
1 pinch of salt
1 cup and two tbsp of all-purpose flour (it’s 5.3 oz)
4 eggs (room temperature)
Powdered and granulated sugar
4 cups of peanut or corn oil to fry
For the pastry cream
Start off with the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan heat to scald the milk with lemon zest. In another saucepan (off heat), beat the yolks with sugar. Whisk in the flour, and gradually add the warm milk until the mixture is smooth. Place the second saucepan over medium-low heat. When the mixture starts to thicken, remove from heat and keep on stirring. Return the saucepan to the heat and continue stirring. Repeat a couple of times.
When the cream is smooth and thick, pour into a glass heat-proof container, stir until warm and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool down and refrigerate until chilled.
For the tortelli
In medium saucepan, bring cubed butter, sugar, salt, and water to a boil. Remove from heat. Dump the flour in the pan at once and quickly stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, from the top to the bottom, until mixture pulls away from sides and from the spoon (about 5-6 minutes).
When it’s ready remove from heat and let it cool down a bit. Add the eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next. It’s really important that you add one egg at a time. The elasticity of dough depends on how you work in the first egg. Mind that as soon as you add the egg, the dough will get all slimy: don’t get discouraged and keep on working. The result is a sticky, elastic and yellow mix.
In a deep 2-qt saucepan, heat 4 cups of oil. To test the temperature of oil, use the back of a wooden spoon: when the oil is ready, bubbles will come up from it.
Scoop up the batter, and form some little balls (the size of a nut – more or less), using the spoon and your index, and push the batter off into the oil. Cook a maximum of five puffs together, until they have a golden brown color, turning it once or twice during cooking. Use an Asian strainer to drain and let them cool down on a plate with a paper towel on it.
On a baking sheet pour and mix some powdered sugar with some granulated sugar. Fill a pastry bag with the chilled pastry cream and fill the puffs. Sprinkle with the sugary mixture and serve.
The puffs can be stored in an airtight pyrex for up to two days (but trust me… these are not gonna last that long)