There are as many batters as you care to make. That became my conclusion a few years ago when I was experimenting with batters for courgette blossoms or fiori di zucca as they are called in Italian. Traditionally in Rome, these beautiful flowers are stuffed with mozzarella and a little bit of anchovy fillet and fried in the batter to be offered, piping hot, as an antipasto.
When Japanese food hit the foodie scene here in Italy and I can’t say exactly when, even though I can pinpoint the 1990s as an approximate date, I noticed that Italian batters were slowly but surely and ever-so-secretively being shunned in favour of something that approached the Japanese tempura batter. To wit: ice cold water, better still ‘sparkling’ ice cold water, and no eggs whatsoever.
I happen to adore tempura so it’s not about that.
BUT (I know it’s not good form to start a sentence with the conjunction ‘but’, let alone spell it out in capital letters but …) the Japanese tempura is for Japanese fried food to be served with accompanying saucy accompaniments. The Italian fiori di zucca are served just as they are and gilded only with a sprinkle of salt. They are, yes, supposed to be crisp but not tempura-crisp like. They are supposed to yield too and be soft and enveloping on the tongue as the mastication (chewing) releases all those wonderful textures and tastes. All this to say that I like my fiori di zucca to be fried the traditional way most of all, even though I doff my hat to other ways of making batter (including beer or wine even).
Being very forthright with my opinion is the easy part. The difficult part was getting all the ingredients down in a numerical description because every time I made the batter, I tweaked it this way and that, changing it all the time, so that I never knew precisely what the proportions were. So, this time, I tried to be scientific about it all and here is the result.
I realised that you will need ‘precisely and approximately’ (my favourite quote from the film Monsoon Wedding), the same amount of flour per weight of liquid and about 1 egg per 100g. So, for instance, as in this case: 300g flour, 300ml water, 3 eggs. I hope that makes sense. Of the flour, roughly 1/3 of it should be corn flour or starch (Maizena).
The sifted flour … 300g in all. Of the 300g, 250g was ordinary flour and 50g was corn starch. Next time, however, and based on the final result of the batter, I would recommend a little more corn flour in the mixture: 225g ordinary flour and 75g corn starch.
And here is the final batter. The longer you leave the batter to ‘rest’, the better. The minimum resting time is 20 minutes. This is where the freezer comes in handy. Place the batter in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Then remove it and and put it in the fridge. NOW you see why it’s not absolutely vital that you use icey water to make the batter. You can use the freezer and fridge instead. What I DO think makes perfectly good sense is to have a very cold batter in which to dip the courgette blossoms. Upon contact with a very hot oil, the result will be crispy, ungreasy, super duper palate performance.
I told you, I am an FFF – a fried-food fanatic.