FRIED CREAM - CREMA FRITTA

Makes about 20 pieces, serving 6 or more

For the custard:
4 cups milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks

For frying and serving:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs, or more if needed
3 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 cups vegetable oil, or as needed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

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Pour the milk in the heavy pan. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt, to break up any lumps then whisk the dry mixture gradually into the milk. Break up the egg yolks a bit in bowl then whisk (and scrape) every bit of yolk into the milk.

Set the pan over medium heat and bring the milk near to a simmer, whisking constantly. Lower the heat a bit and cook the custard, still whisking, as it starts to thicken and gradually comes to a slow bubbling boil. Cook for at least 15 minutes, to make sure the flour has cooked, always whisking (ask someone to take a turn!). When the custard is quite thick and creamy-it won’t get stiff-take the pan off the heat.

Turn the hot custard into the shallow dish and spread it in an evenly thick layer covering the bottom. Let it cool at room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, for several hours or a day or so.

When you’re ready to fry the “cream,” spread the flour in a small plate, the bread crumbs in a large plate, and whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt in a wide, shallow bowl. Pour vegetable oil into the skillet to a depth of ¼-inch and start heating it, slowly. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Unwrap the chilled custard, dip a sharp knife in warm water and slice the sheet into squares, rectangles, or diamonds, 1-1/2- to 2-inches on a side. (Since larger pieces are more fragile, cut a couple of test portions and lift them from the pan with a spatula. Cut smaller pieces if necessary.)

Working in batches that you can fry without crowding, coat the custard blocks in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs-handle gently; use a spatula or fork to turn and lift them . Lay the pieces in the hot oil and fry for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (if the crumbs darken fast quickly, lower the heat). Set the fried creams on paper towels to drain.

Let the creams cool briefly then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar-to taste. Serve while they’re still warm.