Every year we hold an annual Latkesplash party, full of all sorts of potato pancakes and Manischewitz spritzers and good cheer. Recently we've been trying to extend Hanukkah's greasy tradition of eating fried foods beyond the potato pancake, and rounded out the party spread with these zeppole. They're a holiday food themselves (the feast of San Giuseppe), but have since become a street food of Southern Italy, ranging from cruller-type rings topped with pastry cream to savory balls stuffed with anchovies. Here, I filled the fried pate a choux pastry (!) with a mix of creamy mascarpone studded with chopped chocolate and orange zest, then rolled them in a dusting of sugar. As a warning: the choux batter rises and swells in unexpected ways, so your zeppole may not end up as neat little balls. But oh man will they be delicious. Happy Hanukkah! —deensiebat
Test Kitchen Notes
Who doesn't love fried dough? And these sweet delights are a perfect opportunity to fry up something deliciously new for the Festival of Lights. Try forming quenelles of dough with two spoons to help regularize the final form of your zeppole. The filling is sweet but not overly so (play around with the proportions if the consistency doesn't seem conducive to squeezing through a pastry bag). The acidic citrus and bitter chocolate are wonderful counterpoints to the fried flavor of the dough. Fry some up for a sugar boost to get those dreidel fingers working! —Rebecca Vitale
~3 dozen zeppole
unsalted butter (1 stick)
high heat oil, such as canola or peanut, for frying (the exact amount required depends on the pan you use)
sugar, plus more for finishing the zeppole
zest of 1 orange
chopped chocolate (you want it chopped into relatively smallish bits, no larger than pea-sized)
To make the dough: Place the milk, butter, sugar and salt in a pot or large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to combine as the butter melts.
When the mixture is simmering add the flour all at once, and continue to stir over medium heat until the mixture sticks slightly and browns at the bottom of the pan, 2~5 minutes (during this process the mixture will loose some of its moisture, and come together in a cohesive mass).
When the dough is ready, transfer the dough to a mixer and add the eggs, one by one, stirring until well-combined after each addition (scrape down the sides as needed),
To cook the zeppole: Line a plate or tray with a cut-open brown paper bag to be ready for the finished zeppole, or place a rack over a tray to catch the drips. Heat a few inches of oil in a large, heavy pot over a medium-high heat, until a bit of zeppole batter bubbles and browns when you drop it in.
When the oil is hot, about 375°F, add the zeppole batter in heaping, rounded tablespoons, using either an ice-cream scoop or two spoons. The batter will swell dramatically, so don’t overcrowd! Cook the zeppole, turning occasionally, until they are well-browned (NOTE: The zeppole must be fully cooked, or they’ll deflate upon cooling, so make sure they fry until they’re a nice deep brown). When the zeppole have browned, fish them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to your prepared surface. Repeat with remaining batter.
To finish the zeppole: In a small bowl, mix together the mascarpone, vanilla, 1/3 cup sugar, and orange zest, then stir in the chopped chocolate.Transfer to a pastry bag (or freezer bag with the corner snipped off). Place additional sugar in a plate or a bowl for coating the zeppole.
Take one of the zeppole, poke the pastry bag into it, and squeeze some of the filling inside (if you’re using a plastic bag, poke a hole in each zeppole with the tip of a knife, then nudge the tip of the bag inside and fill). Place the filled zeppole onto the sugar-lined bowl, toss around to dust the surface with sugar, then transfer to another plate/bowl for serving. Repeat with the remaining zeppole, and serve.