Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19th St. Joseph's Zeppole Celebration


Zeppole are special fritters, fried doughs, or donuts, made in expectation of the Feast of St. Joseph that falls on March the 19th. They are one of the numerous recipes of the Neapolitan tradition. There are several  recipes that varies by years past and present. Here are a few we have made and loved through the years in the family.

San Guiseppe is the day for zeppole. The pastry shops and friggitorie (fried food stands) churn them out in astonishing quantity, for eating Zeppole on the 19th is another of those traditions in Italy that must be observed. Despite their size everyone eats at least two or three, or even four, because the sweet, delicate pasta bigné, flavored with a hint of cream and one or two bits of candied cherry, is so good and a creamy delight.
The current, refined version of zeppole became a tradition quite late, perhaps towards the end of the 19th century. Among the [older] cookbooks  called  "Tortanetti di pasta bigné" (1865); the zeppole for San Giuseppe are instead made from a flour-and-water dough that's fried, and dusted with sugar and powdered cinnamon or dipped in honey. It's known that this traditional version was quite ancient. It's also known that on March 19th they were made by the ton in pastry shop and frying stall, as well as at home, and that they were offered to guests and whoever else happened to come by and you were really especially lucky to  celebrate  that day if you were named Giuseppe (Joseph).

Grandma's Roman Zeppole Version( with honey  she called them Crispelles):

1 pkg. dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup raisins (soaked in Brandy till plump)

Canola oil, for deep-frying (she used vegetable oil)
Honey preferred or
Confectionery Sugar

Mix dry yeast with warm water in a small bowl. In a large bowl, add flour, cinnamon, and salt. Make a well in the flour with a wooden spoon, and add the eggs, water, and yeast. Mix dry ingredients into well, little by little, until it reaches bread dough consistency (if the dough still sticks to the bowl, add more flour). If using raisins drain, and fold in this point.  Cover and let rise until double in bulk.

In a dutch oven, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375 degrees. Fry dough by the tablespoonful in hot oil (dip spoon in flour, if necessary, to keep dough from sticking). Drain on paper towels. Place zeppole in large bowl and pour honey(grandma's style) or powder sugar over them.

Traditional Pizza Fritta click here
This is a fried Italian dough, you can fry it and add anything on it you want to.  Some like it with cinnamon and sugar, confectionery sugar, regular sugar. Some spread with butter, peanut butter or jam. At Italian feasts, this is very popular Italian  fried dough in many States. 

Zeppole (fritter style)

1 tablespoon  vanilla
1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
Olive oil, for frying

Add the 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the butter, salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Take pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return pan to the heat and stir continuously until mixture forms a ball, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the flour mixture to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer on low speed, add eggs, 1 at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Beat until smooth. If not frying immediately, cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees.

Using a large tablespoon carefully drop about a tablespoon of the dough into the hot olive oil, frying in batches. Turn the zeppole once or twice, cooking until golden and puffed up, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon-sugar. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately.

Sicilian Style (My husbands family)

2-1/2 cups self rising flour  
 1- 1/2 lb. Ricotta Whole Milk( 1- 16 oz and 1- 8 oz container)
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cinnamon and sugar mixture (enough to coat after frying) 

Heat a dutch oven 2 inches deep with vegetable oil

Beat 4 eggs, the ricotta, sugar and vanilla extract. Mix well.
Add the flour and mix well. In case batter is a little stiff add a small amount of milk and mix well.
Gently drop by tablespoons into the hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
Roll freshly fried zeppole in cinnamon and sugar mixture or confectionery sugar.

Mom's Favorite Cream Puff Recipe

Zeppole DI San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs)

 Mom's Version (Bari Style) Creamy
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Beat eggs in bowl set aside. Measure 1 cup flour and set aside.
In a heavy non stick saucepan, pour 1 cup water and a stick of butter (not margarine) add zests and bring to a boil on medium heat, leave on heat and add flour stirring quickly with a wooden spoon until flour is dissolved and comes together.
Remove from heat, add eggs and beat very rapidly with the wooden spoon until a ball of dough if formed...Note its very important to beat this fast.
Spoon one tablespoon of dough or teaspoon for small puffs on an ungreased cookie sheet. Shape into logs for eclairs or round for cream puffs. Bake on 400 for 1/2 hour, do not open oven or puffs will not cook correctly. When browned remove from oven, cool, cut in half to fill.
You can fill with puffs whipped cream, Italian pastry creme, vanilla pudding. Eclairs also will have chocolate frosting on top filled with vanilla pudding
Remove to rack and cool completely. Cut slit in side of each puff and fill with below filling or sweetened whipped cream:

Ricotta Filling
3 cups Ricotta cheese
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients except chips and beat with electric mixer about 10 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

Or Make:
Cafe Style filling:
 4 large egg yolks
 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup granulated sugar
 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
 pinch of sea salt
2 cups  whole milk

1/2 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup Ricotta cheese whole milk
2 tablespoons confectionary sugar

 In a small heavy weight saucepan, beat the yolks, sugar, salt and flour all at once until all lumps are gone. Slowly add  milk and whisk to make a smooth consistency. Heat slowly over medium heat till this mixture thickens stirring constantly.

 At the very start, whisk slowly and then a little quicker as the cream starts feeling thicker. Wait for a simmering boil to appear. At this point lower the heat to very low as you finish getting the perfect cream consistency. As the whisk leaves a trail as it stirs, this is the indication that the cream is ready. When the pudding has thickened remove from stove and cover with wax paper not to form a skin. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

In a bowl add ricotta, sugar and almond flavoring, stir till completely mixed. Fold in pudding. Fill cream puffs. Keep refrigerated. These also look nice with a mixture of powdered sugar and water glaze with a cherry on top.

If you click on Wikipedia, it will show modern versions of this creamy dessert, a confection made with pastry cream and chopped cherries. Here is a recipe from Laurie Alves @Foodslove for baked zeppole.
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