How to Make Irresistible Cremini Ascolani: A Step-by-Step Fried Cream Recipe

Fried Cream, or Cremini Ascolani, is a tasty Italian dessert from the Marche region. It’s basically a ball of creamy filling fried in a crispy coating. Simple but delicious! This treat has been a local favourite for ages, and it’s easy to see why – the contrast between the crunchy outside and soft inside is really satisfying. Let me walk you through how to make your own fried cream at home. It’s not too complicated, and you’ll end up with a wonderful sweet snack or dessert that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

What’s Fried Cream?

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Fried cream is a yummy dessert you can find in different parts of Italy, like Marche, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna. It’s basically a vanilla and lemon flavoured custard that’s cut into pieces, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried until it’s golden and crispy.

The most well-known kind comes from Ascoli Piceno in Marche.

Making cremini fritti is all about keeping things traditional and using simple ingredients. Each bite tastes like homemade goodness, with a crispy outside and just the right amount of sweetness.

I first tried cremini when I was about 8 or 9, during a summer trip with my family in Rimini. We loved taking day trips to explore nearby places, and one day we went to Urbino, where the famous artist Raphael was born.

After a fun morning checking out Raphael’s house and walking around the pretty cobblestone streets, we got hungry. We stopped at a small restaurant, and my uncle Carlo treated us with a mixed fry plate. That’s when I took my first bite of those tasty creamy nuggets, and I was hooked!

They’re actually pretty easy to make at home, and I like making them for my kids sometimes,

even though they’re typically associated with carnival and Easter celebrations.

fried cream - Cremini all' Ascolana
Ascolana fry up

Typical Marche’s mixed fry-up

The Origins and Regional Variations of Cremini

The history of Cremini is a bit of a mystery, but one thing’s for sure – people absolutely love them!

Some say the ancient Romans were the first to start frying food, since they had plenty of olive oil.

And guess what? Leonardo da Vinci was a huge fan of fried cream! He even shared his secret recipe with a close friend.

Initially, fried cream was just a clever way to use up leftover pastry cream, but over time, it became a total hit throughout Italy. In the Marche region, they serve fried cream as an appetizer, along with other tasty fried treats like Ascoli stuffed olives and breaded veggies. They come in cute little cubes or diamonds, and even though it’s an appetizer, Marche-style fried cream has a splash of anise liqueur to balance out the savoury flavours. 

People in Veneto enjoy fried cream with a glass of sweet wine during holidays like Christmas or carnival. Meanwhile, in Liguria and Piedmont, they’ve put their own spin on it by using semolina instead of cream, calling them fried semolina bites (bocconici semolino fritto).

And in Emilia Romagna, fried cream is not only part of the mixed fry lineup but also served alongside other fried desserts made with semolina or ricotta. 

Eggs
close up of various lemons
cup full of flour
Jug of milk

Nutrition

 

Fried Cream (Cremini Ascolani) is a rich and delicious treat that is high in calories, carbohydrates, and fats. It should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet and is not considered a healthy everyday food choice.

  • Proteins 15% 15%
  • Carbs 35% 35%
  • Fats 50% 50%
fried cream - Cremini all' Ascolana

The Key Ingredients and Techniques for Success 

Custard Cream

When it comes to making Cremini Ascolani, the pastry cream (or custard cream) is definitely the star ingredient. This creamy filling is what gives fried cream its signature rich and smooth texture that’s just so satisfying to bite into.

Here are some tips to help you make the perfect pastry cream:

1. Ingredients: Use high-quality, fresh ingredients like milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, and a bit of flour for thickening. The better your ingredients, the better your pastry cream will taste.

2. Tempering the Eggs: When you’re mixing the egg yolks with the hot milk mixture, be sure to temper the eggs to keep them from curdling. Slowly pour a little of the hot milk into the yolks while whisking continuously. This helps the eggs warm up gradually.

3. Cooking Time: Cook the pastry cream over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens to your liking. Take your time with this step to ensure a smooth, creamy texture.

4. Straining: After cooking, strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps or bits of cooked egg. This will give you a perfectly smooth cream.

5. Cooling: Once your pastry cream is ready, let it col off at room temperature for a few hours or until it’s completely cold and set. This will make it easier to handle when assembling your Cremini Ascolani.

 

Coating

Let’s talk about the coating for Cremini Ascolani, which is crucial for getting that perfect crispy exterior that’s just so satisfying when you bite into it. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know, including the best breadcrumbs to use and a cool traditional method.

Remember to handle those cream cubes with care – they are very delicate and will break if you’re not gentle!

1. Flour: First things first, give your chilled pastry cream cubes a light dusting of all-purpose flour. This first step helps the other layers stick to the cream and creates a nice even surface for coating. Be sure to handle the cubes gently, so they don’t break apart.

2. Egg Whites: After the flour, carefully dip your pastry cream cubes into some lightly beaten egg whites. These little guys act like glue, making sure the breadcrumbs stay put on the cream’s surface when you fry them up. Again, be gentle to keep those cubes intact.

3. Breadcrumbs: If you want the best results, go for fine breadcrumbs. They create a smooth coating that gives you a delicate crunch, which is just perfect with the creamy filling inside the Cremini Ascolani.  Traditionally, people used to make their own breadcrumbs at home using slightly toasted stale peasant bread. It adds this rustic and authentic touch to the dish that’s just so cool.

4. Even Coating: Make sure each and every pastry cream cube gets an even coating of flour, egg white, and breadcrumbs. This way, you’ll get consistent results when you fry them, and every single bite of your Cremini Ascolani will have that perfect balance of creamy inside and crispy outside. Just remember to handle them with care throughout the coating process to avoid any breakage.

 

Flavourings

That’s the beauty of fried cream –  they come in the two classic flavours that showcase the regional preferences and culinary traditions of Italy, making them so special.

First, we have the Marche region, where these tasty fried cream treats originated. Here, anise liqueur is the key ingredient that gives the pastry cream a unique flavour. It adds a subtle liquorice-like taste and a touch of sweetness that complements the savoury mixed fry-up that’s popular in the area. The herbal and aromatic notes from the liqueur create a delightful flavour combination.

But if anise isn’t your thing, don’t worry – lemon and vanilla are great alternatives! These two flavors are widely used in Cremini recipes across Italy, especially in regions where the fried cream is served as a dessert. The zesty lemon and sweet vanilla bring a refreshing and aromatic touch to the pastry cream, making it even more delicious.

When adding lemon zest to your pastry cream, here’s a handy tip: instead of grating it, use the whole lemon peel and let it steep in the milk. This way, you’ll get a lovely hint of lemon without overpowering the other flavours. It’s a small detail that can make a big difference in the final taste.

Whether you prefer the anise liqueur version or the lemon-vanilla combo, one thing’s for sure – Cremini  are a true representation of Italy’s rich culinary heritage. These little fried cream bites offer a delicious mix of flavours and textures that have been enjoyed by food enthusiasts for generations. Once you try them, you’ll understand why they’re so beloved!

 

Oil for frying

Choosing the right oil is key to getting that perfect crispy texture and beautiful golden brown colour. In Italy, peanut oil is often the go-to choice because it has a high smoke point and a neutral taste. But I get it – not everyone can or wants to use peanut oil, and that’s totally fine!

If you’re looking for an alternative, I personally love using sunflower oil for frying. It has a mild flavour and a high smoke point, which makes it great for deep-frying. But if sunflower oil doesn’t work for you either, no worries – there are plenty of other options to choose from!

1. Canola oil: This oil is known for its neutral taste and high smoke point, making it a versatile choice for frying up your Cremini Ascolani.

2. Vegetable oil: Made from a blend of different plant-based oils, vegetable oil is another great option for deep-frying. It has a neutral taste and a high smoke point, so it’s perfect for the job.

3. Grapeseed oil: If you’re looking for an oil with a clean flavour and a high smoke point, grapeseed oil is the way to go. It’ll give your fried cream a light and crispy texture that’s just delicious.

Now, you might be wondering what the heck a “smoke point” is. Basically, it’s the temperature at which an oil starts to smoke and break down. When this happens, it can release some not-so-great compounds and give your food an unpleasant taste. So, it’s important to choose an oil with a high smoke point when you’re deep-frying.

 

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fried cream - Cremini all' Ascolana

Cremini Ascolani (Fried Cream)


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  • Author: Silvana
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 portions 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

Units Scale

FOR THE PASTRY CREAM

  • 350 grams of fresh whole milk
  • 150 grams of fresh liquid cream
  • 130 grams of sugar
  • 6 large yolks
  • 60 grams of white spelt flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • The peel from 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • OR 1 tbsp. of anise liqueur

FOR THE COATING

  • Plain flour (as needed)
  • 6 egg whites
  • Breadcrumbs (as needed)

FOR FRYING

  • 1.5 litre of sunflower oil

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, pour the milk and cream. Add the whole lemon peel and the vanilla extract (or anise liqueur). Heat over low heat until warm.
  3. Gradually add the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue to whisk until the cream thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Line a shallow, rectangular oven dish (approximately 22x15x4 cm) with plastic wrap. Remove the lemon peel from the cream mixture and discard. Pour the thickened cream into the prepared dish and smooth the surface.
  5. Allow the cream to cool at room temperature for a couple of hours.  Avoid refrigerating the cream or covering it, as this may result in excessive moisture.
  6. Once the cream has cooled and solidified, remove it from the dish. Cut the cream into 3 cm cubes, each weighing around 20 grams.
  7. Set up three separate bowls: one with flour, another with lightly beaten egg whites, and the third with breadcrumbs. Take each cream cube and gently roll it first in the flour, then dip it in the egg white, and finally coat it with breadcrumbs. Make sure each cube is completely covered. Place the coated cubes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  8. Heat sunflower oil in a deep pot or fryer to 170°C (338°F). Carefully lower a few cream cubes at a time into the hot oil. Fry them, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon, until they turn golden brown.
  9. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried cream cubes (cremini) from the oil and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Continue frying the remaining cream cubes in batches until all are cooked.
  10. Your delicious Fried Cream (Cremini Ascolani) are now ready to serve and enjoy!

Notes

When preparing the cream, ensure the dish used for cooling is sufficiently deep to allow for thick cubes.

Use plastic wrap to line the bottom of the dish for easy removal once solidified.

For ideal consistency, consider placing the cooled cream in the freezer briefly to firm up further before cutting into cubes.

Once prepared, enjoy the fried cream immediately for the best taste. Alternatively, you can freeze the breaded cubes before frying. Thaw them in the refrigerator before use for optimal results.

Refer to the notes on the blog for additional tips and tricks.

  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: Italian
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FAQs

Is deep fried cream suitable for vegetarians?

Yes, deep-fried cream is suitable for vegetarians. The primary ingredients used in making deep-fried cream are dairy-based, such as milk and eggs, which are vegetarian-friendly. Additionally, the coating typically consists of breadcrumbs or a similar vegetarian-friendly alternative. 

Can I make fried cream ahead of time?

Yes, you can make fried cream ahead of time. While fried cream is best enjoyed fresh, you can prepare the custard filling and coat it in breadcrumbs in advance. Once coated, you can store the prepared fried cream in the refrigerator for a few hours before frying. This allows you to save time when preparing for a meal or event and ensures that you can enjoy freshly fried cream without having to prepare it all at once. Just remember to fry them just before serving to maintain their crispiness and optimal texture.

Are there any variations of Cremini Ascolani?

Yes, there are variations of Cremini Ascolani that offer different flavours and textures. While the traditional recipe involves a custard cream filling coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, variations may include:

1. Flavour Variations: Some recipes incorporate additional flavours into the custard cream, such as citrus zest, almond extract, or liqueurs like rum or amaretto, to enhance the taste profile of the Cremini Ascolani.

2. Coating Variations: Instead of traditional breadcrumbs, alternative coatings can be used to add variety and texture. Crushed nuts, shredded coconut, or even crushed biscuits can be used as coatings to create unique variations of Cremini Ascolani.

3. Shape Variations: While traditional Cremini Ascolani are typically small, bite-sized pieces, variations may involve shaping the custard cream into different forms before coating and frying. For example, larger portions resembling croquettes or patties can be made for a different presentation.

4. Filling Variations: While custard cream is the classic filling for Cremini Ascolani, variations may experiment with different fillings such as chocolate ganache, fruit preserves, or flavoured cream cheese, offering a range of taste experiences.

These variations allow for creativity and personalisation in making Cremini Ascolani, providing opportunities to explore different flavour combinations and textures while staying true to the essence of this beloved Italian dessert.

Is fried cream suitable for people with food allergies?

Fried cream may not be suitable for individuals with certain food allergies, depending on their specific allergens. The primary ingredients in fried cream include dairy and eggs (from the custard cream filling), and gluten (from the breadcrumbs used for coating).

If you’re considering making fried cream and have food allergies or dietary restrictions, there are alternative ingredients you can use to accommodate various needs.

For individuals with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance, you can replace dairy-based custard cream with plant-based alternatives such as coconut milk or almond milk. These dairy-free options provide a creamy texture without the use of cow’s milk.

If you’re avoiding eggs, you can use substitutes such as flaxseed meal mixed with water or commercial egg replacers. These alternatives help bind the ingredients together and provide structure to the custard cream filling without the need for eggs.

For those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, traditional breadcrumbs can be substituted with gluten-free alternatives such as crushed gluten-free crackers, cornmeal, or ground nuts. These coatings still provide a crispy texture while being free from gluten-containing grains.

How should Cremini Ascolani be served?

Cremini Ascolani can be served in various ways, depending on personal preference and occasion. Here are some serving suggestions:

1. As a Standalone Dessert: Cremini Ascolani can be served on their own as a delightful dessert. Arrange them on a serving platter and dust with powdered sugar for a simple yet elegant presentation.

2. With a Drizzle of Chocolate Sauce: For an indulgent twist, serve Cremini Ascolani with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce. The combination of creamy custard and rich chocolate creates a decadent flavour experience.

3. Accompanying a Mixed Fry: Cremini Ascolani are traditionally part of a mixed fry, so they pair well with other fried foods such as olives, vegetables, or seafood. Serve them alongside other fried delicacies for a delicious assortment of flavours and textures.

4. As a Dessert Platter: Create a dessert platter featuring Cremini Ascolani along with other Italian sweets such as cannoli, tiramisu, or panna cotta. This allows guests to sample a variety of desserts and enjoy a taste of Italy’s culinary heritage.

5. With Fresh Fruit: For a refreshing contrast, serve Cremini Ascolani with a side of fresh fruit such as berries, sliced kiwi, or pineapple. The tartness of the fruit complements the creamy sweetness of the fried cream, creating a well-balanced dessert.

What is the texture of fried cream?

The texture of fried cream is a delightful contrast of crispy and creamy. Once fried, the exterior of the cream develops a golden-brown crust that is crispy and crunchy, providing a satisfying texture with every bite. Inside, the cream filling remains soft, smooth, and velvety, melting in the mouth and offering a rich and creamy sensation. This combination of crispy exterior and creamy interior creates a harmonious texture that makes fried cream a truly indulgent treat.

Can Cremini Ascolani be frozen?

While it is technically possible to freeze Cremini Ascolani, it is not advisable due to potential texture issues. Freezing can cause the fried cream to become too moist, which may lead to problems when frying as they could break apart. Additionally, the freezing process may compromise the crispy exterior, resulting in a less satisfying texture when reheated. It is best to enjoy Cremini Ascolani fresh for the optimal taste and texture experience.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

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