Festa del Papà – The 19th of March is twice as nice (make that thrice!) because not only is today Father’s Day and Festa di San Giuseppe in Italy, it’s also the period when these special goodies are made throughout the peninsula in all of their tempting, glorious interpretations. This partially baked/fried version is slightly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and filled with homemade pastry cream.
Recipe for 24 small or 12 large zeppole
Although zeppole are really easy to put together once you’ve got all of the components ready, success at making the fritters depends on a few key factors which are listed below.
* Use vegetable or a lite type of oil for frying. Olive oil is an unnecessary expense.
* The temperature of the oil is very important; too hot and the outside of the fritter cooks before it has a chance to expand; too cold and it sits in the frying pan soaking up excess oil.
* A Kitchenaid is the better choice for mixing. My food processor did the job but required frequent scraping of the sides. If mixing by hand, do so as if your life depended on it!
* A sturdy pastry bag, or sac à poche as they’re called in Italy, and a large star tip is nice to have but not essential. A plain pastry tip will do.
1 cup water
2 ounces butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
*Oil for frying
*About 3 cups of ready-made vanilla pastry cream
*Fabbri amarena cherries in syrup or cherry preserves
*Powdered sugar for dusting
In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Add salt, then stir in the flour all at once. With a wooden spoon, quickly mix until the flour has absorbed all of the liquid, forming a stiff mass of dough. This is the only part where you’ll really need to put some effort into it.
Scrape dough into mixing bowl. On low speed, mix in the eggs one at a time, taking care that each one is thoroughly combined before adding the next. Scrape down sides to ensure even mixing. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.
With a pastry bag fitted with a large tip, pipe circles of about 2½ inches in diameter onto the baking parchment. Larger if you want Super zeppole. Place in hot oven for only 5-6 minutes until the sticky tackiness of the dough is gone.
While zeppole are in the oven, preheat oil in a wide, deep frying pan to a depth of at least 1 inch. After removing them from the oven, slide several pieces into the hot oil (they should pull away freely from the parchment), allowing room for expansion. Fry until golden, flipping over once. Drain on paper towels. In the photo below, you can’t really tell much difference between the “poofy” shells (back row) and the “hockey pucks” (middle row) other than the slightly darker color. The interior should be nice and lite like in the open one shown.
To assemble: Lightly dust the tops of zeppole with powdered sugar (optional). Pipe or spoon pastry cream in the center and top with cherries. Sit back and watch them vanish in no time.