Spanish Desserts: Easy Leche Frita Recipe
How Do You Make Fried Milk?
If you understand any Spanish, you know that leche frita literally means "fried milk." This may leave you feeling confused: How exactly do you fry milk?
Well, first, you add things to it. Cornstarch and sugar are added to make a custard base, which is then chilled for several hours or, ideally, overnight to thicken it. This is cut into squares (or molded into other shapes), before it is breaded and fried. The result is a beautiful crispy morsel that crunches as you bite into it, to reveal a rich creamy pudding center.
This easy recipe for leche frita will wow dinner guests of all ages. They'll never know how little work it really takes... Unless you choose to share this recipe. I'll leave that up to you.
Where Does Leche Frita Come From?
Various regions have claimed to be the birthplace of this dish, but it is widely believed that leche frita originated in Palencia.
Leche Frita Recipe
Note: The long preparation time above includes the minimum of 4 hours you need to chill your milk mixture before you can cut it. Active time is a total of 20-30 minutes.
- 3 cups milk
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus additional
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 3 Tbsp white flour, seasoned with a pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs, panko or homemade
- olive oil, for frying
Tip: Save your cinnamon stick for reuse in other recipes!
- Warm 2 cups of the milk in a saucepan over low heat with the cinnamon stick. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, and remaining milk and let stand to thicken a little while the other milk warms.
- When the milk in the saucepan shows signs of beginning to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Whisking constantly, add the warm milk to the cornstarch mixture little by little until completely incorporated.
- Return this custard to the stove, add the lemon zest, and turn back on to a low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly so that it does not scorch. By this time the pudding should be thick. Pour it into a flat-bottomed rectangular dish or directly into shaped molds. Chill overnight or at least 4 hours.
- After chilling, cut the custard into squares or remove from your molds. Beat the two eggs and set up a breading station with flour in one bowl, eggs in the next, and breadcrumbs in the last.
- Heat 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil in a high-sided skillet or other heavy pan. Dredge each piece of custard in flour, shaking off the excess, then dipping in the egg, letting any extra drip off before coating in bread crumbs and putting into the hot pan.
- Fry 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a plate or dish lined with paper towels to drain before serving sprinkled with additional sugar (and ground cinnamon, if desired).
3-Step Breading Procedure for Frying
How should you serve leche frita? Any way you want! Here are a few suggestions to get your own creative juices flowing.
- As is. You really don't need to add anything besides a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.
- Eat it con fruta, or "with fruit." Choose local, seasonal fruit for the best flavor. Berries are wonderful in the summer, but you can make a fruit salad with almost anything and serve it alongside. Try tropical fruit like mango and papaya for a fun flavor twist!
- Serve it with fruit jam if no fresh fruit is available (or appealing). I prefer the no-sugar-added variety, since fried milk is sweet enough on its own!
- Make a simple syrup with equal parts water and sugar. Gently heat the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a jar with a piece of lemon peel or some fresh herbs, then cover tightly to steep. Let it cool completely to impart maximum flavor before straining out the fresh ingredients. (Syrup keeps 2 weeks in an airtight container, refrigerated.)
Can't Wait Four Hours?
If you didn't leave yourself enough time for the pudding to chill and solidify, you're probably kicking yourself. But don't despair! Try my easy torrijas recipe instead; it has a lot of the same ingredients, with the addition of stale bread. There's no wait time in the preparation, and you still get to enjoy something sweet and fried! You still get the sugary crunch on the outside, the hint of cinnamon, and a soft inside.