recipe

Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter
Photography by Earl Carter
Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Crostoli

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. Her latest book is Recipe for a Kinder Life. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Now the citrus season is in full swing, I am forever on the lookout for delicious ways to use the excess fruit. And while crostoli feature only a bit of zest, they are a worthy addition to my table.

Crostoli come in many forms and are known by many names. It all depends on which part of Italy, or Europe, you are in. The notion of frying pieces of scented dough seems to date back to the Roman festival of Saturnalia. This could be why a similar treat is found all over Europe. But the Italians have made an art form of it.

The dough itself is very much like a pasta dough. Sometimes it is sweetened but I like to leave mine sugar-free as I find crostoli sweet enough once smothered in icing sugar after frying. The recipe also calls for a white spirit. Grappa is perfect, as is a floral gin. Even a splash of white rum will suffice.

The dough needs to be quite firm but not so firm that it won’t go through a pasta machine. You also don’t want it too moist and sticky. I always use a pasta machine to make crostoli but of course they can be rolled by hand, if you have the patience and strength to roll them very thinly.

The strips can be cut with either a crinkled cutter or a plain one. As I don’t own a ravioli cutter, I just cut mine with a pizza wheel. When you place the pieces in the fryer, the cut through the middle of the strip helps it curl about itself, which makes a lovely shape. Don’t be tempted to put too many in the hot oil at the same time as they do expand and bubble ferociously. I cook mine in a very plain grapeseed oil but traditionally they were fried in lard. I think often about what sort of difference that would make, but have never had quite enough lard on hand to do a comparison fry-up.

These are delicious with espresso coffee but also as a crunchy note if serving a citrus dessert – maybe a cold lemon soufflé, a citrus semifreddo or even an orange crème caramel. As with many fried treats, they always seem to be at their very best on the day they are made.

Ingredients

Makes about 100

Time: 2 hours all-up

  • 500g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • zest 1 orange
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp white spirit
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • icing sugar for dusting
Method
  1. This dough can be made in a food processor, a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or straight onto the bench. It’s similar to making a pasta dough.
  2. Place the flour in the bowl of the processor/mixer bowl/onto the bench.
  3. Whisk the eggs, zests, spirit, milk and orange blossom water together. Add this mixture slowly to the flour until a stiff dough forms. If you are making it on the benchtop, make a well in the centre of the flour, add the wet ingredients, gradually incorporate the flour and then knead into a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chill for at least half an hour.
  4. Set up a deep-fryer. The oil needs to be heated to 180ºC.
  5. Set up your pasta machine. Divide the dough into four pieces and flatten each piece with the palm of your hand or a rolling pin. Work each piece through the rollers on the first setting four to five times, folding the dough in half each time. This will help give the dough strength. Then roll the dough through at 3, 5, 7 and, finally, the last setting. Place the sheets of dough on a floured bench as you work. Cut the dough into strips about three centimetres wide, with a little cut in the middle. Deep fry a few at a time, turning when the underside is golden brown.
  6. Drain on absorbent paper. When you have done this with all the dough, dust liberally with sifted icing sugar.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 23, 2022 as "Crispy dreams".

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Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. Her latest book is Recipe for a Kinder Life. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

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