Butter an 8-inch square pan. If using, split vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape
it with the back edge of a knife, and add it to the cream — pod, seeds and
In a heavy medium-size saucepan, barely boil the milk with the vanilla bean.
If using vanilla extract, add it after custard has cooked.
Sift together flour, cinnamon and salt.
Stir in lemon zest and set mixture aside.
Beat eggs, yolks and sugar together in another heavy pot. While whisking, slowly
add hot milk.
Add flour mixture, whisking well to combine. Switching to a wooden
spatula, stir mixture constantly over medium heat until it thickens. When mixture
boils, stir hard for 2 FULL minutes. The custard should stand up in peaks.
Remove from heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
Spread custard in the buttered pan. It will look grainy.
Chill until set, about 4 hours or overnight.
Cut cold custard into diamonds or other attractive shapes.
Dip each diamond into
beaten egg, then roll in crumbs.
Deep fry in oil or shortening heated to 350 degrees
F on a candy thermometer. The diamonds will sink at first. When they are golden
brown and gloat, they're done. Fried custard should not be doughy, but smooth
Drain on paper towels, then arrange on a pretty platter.
Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and a few drops of Grand Marnier, if desired.