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Saint Joseph's Fritters

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

In Italy, March 19th is the day of Saint Joseph, Maria’s husband, as well as father’s day. Even though this isn’t an official state holiday, in many parts of Italy, especially in the south, St. Joseph’s day is a special celebration.
On this day, pastry shops around Italy sell zeppole di San Giuseppe, fritters filled with pastry cream. This tradition dates back to 500 AC and the Latin celebration of Baccanali, which took place on March 17th in honor of Bacchus and Silinus, respectively, the gods of wine and wheat. The Ancient Romans would consume large quantities of wine and wheat-flour fritters to celebrate the two divinities. It should come as no surprise that St. Joseph’s day, which comes two days later, often includes similar customs. The modern-day recipe for zeppole, however, was created fairly recently. It is believed that this type of fritter was invented by a convent of monks at the beginning of the 19th century.
The first written recipe dates back to 1836 by IppolitoCavalcanti and was penned by IppolitoCavalcanti, a Neapolitan nobleman, who included the recipe in his book


For the dough
1 cup water
5 ozall-purposeflour
3 eggs
1 ozbutter
1 pinchsalt

For the filling
2 eggyolks
2 oz sugar
1 tablespoonall-purposeflour
1 cupmilk

For cooking and garnish
extra virgin olive oil to taste
fryingoil to taste
confectioners sugar to taste
sour cherry in syrup


Pour water into a saucepan and add the salt and butter. Bring to a boil, while stirring.
Add the flour, leaving the pan on the heat, and mix the batter well using a spoon until the batter is smooth and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan.
Then, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the batter to a bowl to cool.
Once the batter reaches room temperature, add the eggs, one at a time and mix together.
Once the batter is fairly light and airy, place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the pastry filling by pouring the milk into a saucepan.
Add the lemon peel and bring to a boil. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar. Then incorporate the flour, whisking continuously.
Once the milk begins to boil, remove it from the heat and slowly add the egg, sugar and flour mixture, whisking as you go. The resulting mixture should be soft and creamy.
Then transfer the mixture to the stove over medium heat. Stir continuously until the cream becomes fairly dense.
Once ready, transfer the cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let cool. Be sure to cover the bowl well so that a film doesn’t form on the surface of the cream.
While you wait for the cream to cool, prepare the fritters.
To shape the fritters, place the fritter batter in a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip.
Cut out 2-in squares of aluminum foil and grease one side of the squares with extra virgin olive oil.
Then, using the pastry bag, form a ring of dough on each foil until you have used all the batter.
Fill a pot with frying oil and place over high heat.
Once hot, place the fritters in the oil, two at a time, with the foil. Do not cook more than two at a time or else the oil will not stay hot.
The foil will separate from the fritters in the hot oil.
Once brown, remove the fritters using a slotted spoon and place them to drain on paper towels while you fry the remaining batter.
Once the fritters are cool enough to handle, fill another pastry bag with pastry cream.
Decorate each fritter with a little cream and place a cherry on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy the zeppole di San Giuseppe.

Olga's tips

If you prefer to bake, rather than fry the zeppole, place them in the oven for 12 minutes or until they turn brown. Once cooked, you can garnish them as if they were fried.

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