Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Time to make the donuts: Italian Zeppole

I was so excited when I saw that Tartelette and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody were hosting "Time to Make the Donuts," a donut blogging event. After all, what a great excuse to make the universally crowd pleasing fried goodie! What's more, it gave me a great opportunity to go back and revisit a very old post and update it with new photos and thoughts. Thanks, guys, for justifying frying up a batch of these sweet treats!

Every culture has it's own take on fried dough. In Italy, it's Zeppole, which is traditionally served for St. Joseph's day in March. For more about the history and tradition read here. Zeppole can be filled with custard, or a honey mixture or can be unfilled. There's a version that is made with ricotta cheese that is next on my list. There is also a savory variety that incorporates anchovy. Zeppole are typically rolled in powdered sugar and / or cinnamon once cooked. They are light and airy, and about two inches in diameter.

The recipe that I've used many times is from Giada De Laurentiis. The batter is simple and fool-proof and can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes. There's no waiting, refrigerating, rising, or pastry bags involved. The tricks are to use a tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop to measure out equal portions of dough, and to fry the zeppole in small batches of 4-6 (depending on your pot size) so as not to overcrowd your pan and lower the temperature of the oil. The only adjustment I make (noted below) is to add vanilla extract to the batter and, if you like, some grated lemon zest. These must be eaten right away. The batter can be prepared ahead and you can fry them right before serving.

(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
(yield: 4-6 servings)

1 vanilla bean
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
Optional: 3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2+ teaspoon grated lemon zest
Olive oil, for frying

Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the back of a knife, scrape along the inside of the vanilla bean to collect the seeds. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into a small bowl. 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. Add vanilla extract and / or lemon zest if using. 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 two inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F (watch the temperature as you fry and adjust heat accordingly to maintain 375 F).

Using a small ice-cream scooper or 2 small spoons, carefully drop about a tablespoon of the dough into the hot olive oil, frying in batches. The zeppole will immediately float to the top and puff up. Turn the zeppole once or twice with the size of a slotted spoon, cooking until golden and puffed up, about 5 minutes (watch constantly as cooking time might also be quite a bit shorter). Drain on paper towels. Toss with cinnamon-sugar. Arrange on a platter (or in a cone) and serve immediately.


Deborah said...

These sound wonderful! I have a ricotta version that I have been wanting to try, as well...

Helene said...

Thank you! Thank you! I love zeppole! I like the idea of vanila instead of lemon, nice change. Thnaks for taking part in our little event!

Peabody said...

These look fantastic...and I too like the use of the vanilla.

Anonymous said...

Yummy zeppole...hey look delicious!

Kajal@aapplemint said...

These look so irresistible. My attempt at making doughnuts failed miserably, so i'm kinda off them for a while.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! Plus, you get cinnamon-y fingers afterwards.

Gigi said...

They look incredible! I love that they are bite size.

Brilynn said...

Those look awesome and I love that they come together so quickly!

Anonymous said...

They look irresistible. I love the presentation in the cone - just perfect.

~~louise~~ said...

Oh my...What I wouldn't do for a goood old fashioned zeppole!!

They look simply delicious!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my... your zeppole look fabulous! I made the ricotta version and just loved them. Must try your recipe next time!

Cheryl said...

Beautiful zeppole and I love the silver container they are in.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Beautiful pictures! You make these sound so easy that I am marking this to try it when I have a fried dessert craving again. Thanks!

eatme_delicious said...

These look delicious! And it's nice (and very tempting) to know that they're so quick to make.

Anonymous said...

You're driving me nuts! I've been away from your blog too long, and I am on a rampage to get to some of these recipes as soon as I get back to my kitchen. The donuts DID it for me after seeing the truffle recipe. Don't know why I'd feel less guilty eating the donuts...silly, buy true. Furthermore, I've made the truffles, but never tried donuts. Thank goodness I don't live any closer to you. I'd have an even worse diet problem. Can't imagine any better photos, but I'm sure your summer class will be productive. Generous of you to share all that info about the photographer. Sudy

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that your good cooking recipes and pictures are driving me nuts...in a good way. They make me want to get in the kitchen immediately and start trying some of them. Afraid my last message sounded harsh. Sudy

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe. My husband's grandfather made something that sounds just like this (he was from Sicily) and, unfortunately, he didn't pass the recipe onto anyone.

I'm hoping this one is it!

Anonymous said...

My family makes zeppoli every Christmas Eve. We love them. The recipe we use, handed down from generations, is a yeast based dough, with lots of grated lemon and oran
ge rind and a shot of anisette. Probably could doctor this recipe to be similar.

Rosemarie said...

Just like Anonymous, we also make these every Christmas Eve (we're Italians). I have to get the recipe from my grandpa (who makes them), but I like the idea of a sweet zeppole (we make the savory kind). Thanks for sharing!!

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