Monday, April 13, 2009

Recipe: Leche fritta - Fried milk

In my house these were called "pellas" but I can't for the life of me find a reference to that name online so I suspect that's the Basque (Euskadi) word for the dish. Leche fritta is "fried milk" in Spanish but really it's a very thick roux based custard which is fried and dusted with sugar and spice. Not an every day dish by any stretch of the imagination but creamy and light textured with a crisp shell it's a winner with kids and parents alike. A real childhood sense memory for me and a real Spanish classic that's common in most of the Latino world.

Leche fritta

1 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
4 cups (1 litre) full cream milk
1 cup cream
3 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
1 cinnamon quill
1/2 tspn nutmeg
Rind of 2 small lemons
50g butter
1 tspn vanilla extract (natural)

For dredging

2 cups plain flour
2 eggs

For dusting

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tbpsn ground cinnamon


Lightly oil a glass baking dish or slice pan or line with plastic food wrap.

Separate the egg yolks and ensure that the eggs are left to reach room temperature. In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 cup of the sugar.

Slowly whisk in the cup of cream. Add the egg yolks and 4 whole eggs and whisk until smooth.

In a medium saucepan combine the milk, nutmeg, cinnamon bark and lemon rind. Heat the milk over moderate heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edge of the surface.

Strain out the bark and then gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, mixing constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly once it reaches the right temperature; do not stop stirring with a steady hand or the custard will become lumpy.

Once it is as thick as porridge take the custard off the heat and stir in the butter and the vanilla; do not add the vanilla before the mixture is off the heat as it will lose much flavour if added too early.

Scrape the custard into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface; let cool slightly. Refrigerate until very firm, at least 3 hours or overnight or place in the freezer for 90 minutes.

In a pie plate, whisk the remaining 2 eggs with a little milk. Spread the flour in 2 more pie plates.

Cut the custard into 4cm squares. In a large, deep nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working with 6 pieces of custard at a time and keeping the rest refrigerated, dip the custard rectangles in the beaten eggs, then dredge in the flour.

Fry the custard over moderate heat, turning once or twice, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack lined with paper towels and immediately sift cinnamon sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of custard. Serve warm or at room temperature, can be served with ice cream but it really doesn't need it.

Note for this recipe I use all lactose free products; do not substitute for soy or other as the taste is too strong for the subtle citrus and cinnamon flavour.

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