Leche frita is one of the most delicious and popular Spanish desserts. You can find it in both restaurants and pastry shops throughout Spain, and it's fun to make at home.
The translation can be a bit puzzling because it translates directly to mean "fried milk." The "milk" is actually a deliciously sweet, firm, cold milk-pudding that is encased in a warm and crunchy fried shell of flour and egg.
This traditional Spanish dessert is easy to prepare. It does require at least 3 hours in the refrigerator, though overnight is preferred. Plan accordingly so it hardens enough for frying.
- 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 7 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, divided)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 quart milk (whole, divided)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 large eggs (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or amount needed for frying)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Garnish: ground cinnamon
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, 3 1/2 tablespoons flour, and sugar.
- Add 1 cup of milk and mix well with a whisk. Let stand until thickened (about 10 minutes).
- In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the milk along with the cinnamon stick over medium-low heat.
- When the milk begins to bubble, remove it from the heat. Strain it little by little into the sugar and flour mixture, stirring constantly.
- Pour the sugar, flour, and milk mixture back into the saucepan over low heat, again stirring well for 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil a 9- by 9-inch ovenproof glass baking dish with olive oil. Pour in the leche frita mixture to a depth of 3/4 inch.
- Leave to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or overnight if you have time.
- Run a knife around the edge of the leche frita to ensure it's not sticking and very quickly turn it out.
- Cut it into squares that are about 2 1/4 inches. In the 9-inch pan, this should create 16 pieces in a 4 by 4 grid.
- Beat the eggs.
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan to a depth approaching 1/4 inch over medium heat. Add the butter.
- Bread each of the squares by dredging them in the remaining flour, then dip them in the beaten eggs.
- Fry in the hot oil for approximately 1 minute on each side, until very lightly golden.
- Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve immediately or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
Serving Leche Frita
Leche frita can be enjoyed a few different ways. It's fantastic hot out of the fryer with a scoop of ice cream. Some people prefer to eat it at room temperature, while others like it cold. Try it all three ways and decide which is your favorite.
About the Baking Dish Size
Rohan Daft, the author of the book from which this recipe was adapted, suggests using an 11- by 7-inch glass baking dish. However, a smaller dish is necessary to obtain a depth of 3/4 inch, which is why we recommend the 9- by 9-inch dish.
What is most important is that the leche frita be at least 3/4-inch thick or it will be very difficult to fry and turn when the time comes.
Keep this in mind as you choose which dish to use, especially if you decide to increase the recipe.
Recipe adapted from "Menu del Dia: More Than 100 Classic Recipes from Across Spain," by Rohan Daft (Simon & Schuster, 2009).