Preparations for lent in Italy last much longer than the one day we have here in the UK when we eat pancakes. Italian festivities include parades and parties as well as sweet treats. The most popular Italian destination for Carnival is undoubtedly Venice for the lavish costumes and masks worn at this time. Yet almost all towns and cities in Italy have their own carnevale, with parades and floats, masks and fancy dress. Most of these take place during the weekend before Shrove Tuesday although in Milan and surrounding areas, the celebrations carry on up until the following Saturday.
Like many other countries, the local specialities at this time of year are based around eggs/milk/butter/sugar. Exact recipes differ from town to town, and take various forms and names although the unifying characteristic is that they are fried. The little doughnuts here are from the Milan area and are surprisingly light, with a fluffy centre. If you want to be really indulgent, you can fill them with crème pâtissière which is how I used to buy them from my favourite pasticceria.
As these are made completely from scratch, I'm sending this over to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge, Made with Love Mondays.
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
150g self raising flour
4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
sunflower oil for frying
caster sugar for dredging
Put the butter, caster sugar, milk, vanilla and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon.
When it has reached boiling point, remove from the heat and add the sifted flour. Mix well until it forms a ball. Put this back on the heat for a minute or two, until you see a thin white coating on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes.
When it has cooled, start adding the eggs and extra yolk. Mix them in one at a time, beating vigorously - make sure that each egg is thoroughly absorbed before adding the next. The batter should not be too thin at the end.
When you're ready to make the fritters, fill a high-sided pan about half full of oil and heat until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped in - it should be about 170º-180ºC, hot but not boiling.
Fry rounded teaspoons of batter, making sure you don't overcrowd the pan, about 5 at a time is ideal. Quickly flip them over when they are golden brown and leave them to cook for a minute on the other side.
Take them out carefully with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen towel to absorb some of the grease. Serve straightaway, with caster sugar sprinkled liberally over.