One of the most diffused of all Italian sweets is the fried pastry called crostoli. You’ve seen them. They’re brittle, sometimes with edges as sharply patterned and regular as a new postage stamp, then dusted with icing sugar. Bite into one and it will shatter like Murano glass.
In my home region of Lombardia, up north, they can be variously called chisoi, ciaccier or manzòle. Of course, in the typical contrary way that is a hallmark of Italy, in my home town they are commonly called lattughe.
Up and down the peninsula the same fried pastries, albeit with some slight differences in form or flavouring, can be called bugie (lies), risòle, galani, sassole (pebbles), carafoi, puttanelle, frottole, nastrini (little bows), donzellini and even frati fritti (fried priests). Who would have thought that a simple mixture of flour, eggs, butter and sugar with the addition of simple flavourings such as grappa and citrus could produce so many permutations?
Even though it’s basically the same article, the Italian desire for the expression of the individual leads each pastry maker to respect the original tradition but at the same time confuse and confound by changing it in every way possible. As if that were not enough, each version is passionately defended as being the authentic, the best tasting and the most genuine.
Crostoli, or lattughe, or whatever you call them, are traditionally eaten at home during the Christmas season. They are festive looking with their snow-white dusting and perfect with grappa and espresso.
- 5 eggs, separated
- 40g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 30ml grappa
- grated rind of a lemon
- juice of a lemon
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 750g plain flour
- duck fat for frying
- icing sugar
Beat the egg yolks, sugar and butter together. Mix in the grappa, lemon rind and juice. Whisk the egg whites till they form soft peaks and fold into the mixture. Add the flour and the baking powder and work in till it forms a smooth dough. Roll out into thin sheets using a pasta machine or rolling pin and cut into strips about 8-10cm long and 3cm wide. Heat the duck fat in a pan. It’s hot enough when a piece of the pastry sizzles instantly once dropped in. Gently tie each pastry into a loose knot before frying in the oil. Turn each once till they’re golden brown. Drain on some absorbent paper. When cool, dust with icing sugar and serve. They keep well in an airtight container stored in a cool pantry, not in the fridge.
Makes 40 or so.