Zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day

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I’m not Italian. Not a drop. But I have worked with some incredible (one might even say iconic) Italian cooks, including Sal Scognomillo at Patsy’s Restaurant in New York City (Sal would want me to say, “NOT the pizza place!”), Frankie Avalon, and Carrabba’s Restaurants. When I lived near Hoboken, I bought my zeppole at none other than Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop, then, as now, the Cake Boss’s place. I have cooked and eaten so many zeppole that I must have achieved Honorary Italian Status by now. Here is my recipe, featured in the new Patsy’s Italian Family Cookbook.

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Zeppole for St. Joesph's Day
Zeppole, a kind of filled doughnut, is by far the most famous of St. Joseph’s Day sweets, and for a few days before and after March 19, they line the shelves of Italian bakeries. Why should St. Joseph get honored with these treats? Because everyone knows that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, and Joseph is the patron saint of husbands. So, to keep your marriage sweet, serve zeppole! Here is my homemade version, stuffed and topped with citrus-and-rum pastry cream. Or, substitute the cannoli cream (recipe follows) for a delicious variation. You will need a pastry bag with two ½-inch-diameter tips, one plain and one open star. Zeppole are usually fried, but you can bake them, too.
Course Desserts
Cuisine Italian
Servings
12 Zeppole
Ingredients
Pastry Cream
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 large eqq yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons teaspoons vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of ½ orange
  • finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum or ½ teaspoon rum extract (optional)
Zeppole
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature, beaten to blend
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 12 maraschino cherries with stems drained on paper towels
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Cannoli Cream (Makes about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta Preferably fresh
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of ½ orange
  • 1/2 cup semisweet miniature chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoon finely chopped candied citron (optional)
Course Desserts
Cuisine Italian
Servings
12 Zeppole
Ingredients
Pastry Cream
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 large eqq yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons teaspoons vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of ½ orange
  • finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum or ½ teaspoon rum extract (optional)
Zeppole
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature, beaten to blend
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 12 maraschino cherries with stems drained on paper towels
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Cannoli Cream (Makes about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta Preferably fresh
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of ½ orange
  • 1/2 cup semisweet miniature chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoon finely chopped candied citron (optional)
Instructions
  1. To make the filling: Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, and cornstarch together in a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl. Quickly whisk the egg yolks into the hot milk mixture. Return to the saucepan. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, whisking almost constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk and let bubble for 1 minute. Strain the pastry cream through a wire mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla, orange zest, and lemon zest. Whisk in the rum, if using. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, pierce a few slits in the wrap with the tip of a knife, and let cool until tepid. (This goes quickly if you put the bowl in a larger bowl of icy water.) Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  2. To make the zeppole: Cut twelve 3-inch squares of parchment paper. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
  3. Bring 1 cup water, the butter, granulated sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to help the butter melt by the time the water boils. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the flour all at once and stir briskly with a wooden spoon to make a stiff dough. Stir until the dough is beginning to film the bottom of the saucepan, about 1½ minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly for about 5 minutes. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat in the eggs in four additions, letting the first addition be absorbed into the dough before adding another.
  4. Fit a large pastry bag with a ½-inch fluted pastry tip. Transfer the warm dough to the bag. Pipe a 2 ¾-inch-diameter circle of dough onto each waxed paper square, with a second ring of dough inside next to the first ring to make a doughnut shape.
  5. Pour enough oil into a large wide saucepan to come halfway up the sides and heat over high heat to 360ºF. In batches without crowding, deep-fry the zeppole until set and the paper squares can be removed with kitchen tongs, about 1 minute. Continue deep-frying, turning halfway through cooking, until the zeppole are golden brown, about 2 ½ minutes more. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towels to drain and cool.
  6. To assemble the zeppole: Using a serrated knife, cut each zeppole in half horizontally. Transfer the chilled filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch open star pastry tip. Pipe the filling onto the bottom of each zeppole to fill it, and replace the top. Pipe a rosette of filling into the center of each zeppole to cover the hole, and top with a cherry. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, dust confectioners’ sugar through a wire sieve over the zeppole.
  7. Baking Instructions. Position racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Instead of cutting out the 12 squares of parchment, line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe six swirls of the dough onto each sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Be sure that the zeppole are crisp or they might deflate when removed from the oven. Pierce each zeppole with the tip of a knife to let the steam escape, and return to the oven. (Switch the position of the sheets from top to bottom.) Continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes more to evaporate the steam. Let cool completely and fill as directed.

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