Fried Ribbon Cookies (Crostoli)
In Padova, Treviso, and Venice (and elsewhere in Italy) sugar-dusted mounds of these fried cookies are served at weddings and holiday celebrations. They’re essential at pre-Lenten festivities celebration. In the Veneto, it just wouldn’t be Carnevale without lots of crostoli!
At our house, these are a favorite treat all year around. The dough is easy to mix in the food processor and its fun for the whole family to make little ribbons and tie them in a knot. Make the cookies a few days in advance, if you prefer, and powder with sugar just before serving.
Total time: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes
Yield: About 40 cookies
- 6 tablespoons very soft butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Finely grated zest of a lemon, about 2 teaspoons
- Finely grated zest of an 1 orange, about 2 tablespoons
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- 6 to 8 cups vegetable oil for frying, or as needed
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar or as needed
- Blend the butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the milk, egg and yolk, rum, lemon juice, and citrus zests and process everything together until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, dump in all of the flour and process in pulses until the dough comes together. Clean the bowl again and pulse a few more times to mix thoroughly.
- Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly into a soft smooth ball. If it is sticky, knead in more flour in small amounts. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. (You can keep it refrigerated up to a day but let it return to room temperature before rolling.)
- Cut the chilled dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to a rough square shape, approximately 16-inches on a side. Trim the edges of the square and with the fluted cutter, divide it into 10 strips, about 1-1/2 inches wide. Cut across all the strips in the middle to form 20 ribbons, each about 7-inches long (though they shrink after you cut them).
- One at a time, tie each ribbon into a simple overhand knot. If necessary, stretch the ends gently so they’re long enough to knot. Place the knotted crostoli on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper as you work, leaving room between them so they don’t stick to each other. Roll out the second piece of dough; cut and tie ribbons the same way.
- Meanwhile, pour vegetable oil in the pan to a depth of 2-inches or a bit more. Set over medium heat to gradually reach frying temperature. When you’re ready to start frying, raise the heat and test the oil by dropping in a scrap piece of dough: the fat should bubble actively around the dough but it shouldn’t get dark quickly. (If you have a frying thermometer, heat the oil to 350°. And be sure to use long handled tools, hot pads and caution when deep frying.)
- Using long-handled tong, quickly drop the first batch of crostoli into the fryer—raise the heat to return the oil to frying temperature. Don’t crowd the cookies—fry only 10 or 12 at a time in a 10-inch diameter pan. The cookies first drop to the bottom but soon float to the surface. Turn them frequently with tongs and a spider or slotted spoon, to cook evenly.
- Fry the crostoli for 4 minutes or so, as they color gradually to dark gold. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain oil temperature and prevent too rapid browning. When crisp and golden all over, lift them from the oil with a spider or spoon, drain off oil, then lay them on layers of paper towel to cool. Fry the remaining crostoli in batches the same way; drain and cool. Store in a sealed cookie tin or plastic container and keep them dry.
- To serve, pile crostoli on a serving plate in a heaping mound. Put the powdered sugar in a small mesh sieve and dust generously over the cookies.