Italian Carnival Sweet Treats - Tortelli di Milano
Do not let the name fool you. Tortelli di Milano, “Tortei de Carnevaa a la Milanese” in the dialect from Milan, are not your pasta tortelli filled with meat or cheese. They are fried sweet dough, similar to doughnuts, covered with sugar and cinnamon. Many Italian Carnival holiday traditions include a sweet version of an everyday dish as if to imitate the concept of Carnival where things are never what they seem to be. These bite size delights appear in the middle of January and are gone by the end of February. They are perfect for mid morning or early afternoon snacks. I first experienced these desserts on a cold January evening in Milan while waiting for the tram after a long day at the office.
The air was cold, the wind strong and the fog had established its control for the night. That wet cold penetrates your bones no matter how many layers of clothes and sweaters you are wearing. While others were already at home getting ready to sit at the dinner table I was, as usual, waiting for the first leg of my 1 ½ hour trip home. Fortunately the tram stop was right in front of a bar, not an unusual occasion considering the number of bars in Milan. Before catching the tram I would drink a “China Calda”, a steaming hot orange flavored liquor. I walked into the bar, greeted my good friend behind the counter, and saw a tray of these puffs with cinnamon and sugar.
I decided it was time to change my usual routine. I ordered a hot chocolate, thick and gooey steaming hot chocolate and a couple of the pastries. They were sweet, soft, and the cinnamon created a beautiful sensation of flavors. Chocolate and spices is a marvelous combination. I completed the long trip home, still warm inside and decided this was a new addition to my favorite traditions. Just as quickly as they had arrived on the scene they disappeared a couple of days after “Giovedi Grasso” and China Calda returned to its previous place as before. Without a doubt Carnival is one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to those cold days when the Tortelli di Milano make their appearance in the bars and pastry shops.
1 ¼ (150 g) All-Purpose Flour
½ stick (50 g) Butter
¼ cups (50 g) Sugar
2 ¼ cups (500 ml) Milk
2 tsp (12 g) Double Acting Baking Powder
1 Lemon Peel
½ tsp Vanilla
1 tbsp Rum
Olive Oil to fry with (or preferred frying oil)
In a large pot, mix together the sugar, vanilla, milk, 2 1/4 cups (500 ml) of water, the butter cut into pieces, the peel of 1 lemon.
Bring the mixture to a boil.
In a separate bowl mix the baking powder and flour.
Remove from the heat and remove the Lemon Peel. Add the flour mixture to the liquid stirring briskly. Place the pot on the heat again and cook for 10 minutes continually stirring. The sough will separate from the sides of the pot, similar to the procedure for Bigne. Remove from heat and allow the dough to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the whole eggs, one a time, working with your hands if necessary. Add the Rum. Set aside.
Heat the frying oil in a heavy skillet or deep fryer. Test the oil temperature by placing a small amount of dough and watching it fry. The oil should not smoke and the dough should take on a golden color.
Use a tablespoon to create small balls of dough. Add them directly to the oil. Cook on both sides until golden. Remove from the oil and allow the Tortelli to drain on a wire rack. Serve hot with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Cakes Available online
Tags: Gourmet Foods Desserts Milan Carnival Italian Holidays Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy