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Author Notes: You don’t have to wait until March to try these decadent pastries if you’re ready to experiment in your own kitchen. If this is your debut as a pastry chef, don’t be scared. The only special tool you’ll need is a piping bag to shape the zeppole dough and add the crema on top. If you don’t have one, you can make one by cutting a small, star-shaped hole in the bottom corner of a large Ziploc bag.
Recipe translated and adapted from Giallo Zafferano. —Carmen Russo
Makes 12-15 medium-sized zeppole
- 1 cup water
- 5 tablespoons butter, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/5 cups flour
- 1/5 cup sugar
- 3 medium-sized eggs
- a pinch of salt
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- peanut oil for frying
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 egg yolks
- grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Maraschino cherries for topping
- powdered sugar for garnish
- Make the crema. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together egg yolks and sugar. Add flour and just enough milk to blend ingredients together smoothly.
- Put the rest of the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest. Turn off heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
- After cooling, slowly add milk to egg yolk mixture. Return to low heat and gently stir until thickened. Remove from heat and pour into a shallow container to cool. Cover and leave in the fridge.
- Make the dough. Mix water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Add the flour all at once. Use a flat wooden spoon to start mixing the flour into the water right away. Once it begins to form a ball, turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl. The dough should stick together and have a light bounce to it, meaning it will pop back up if you poke it with your finger.
- Whisk together the egg yolks. Add a small amount to the dough and work together with the wooden spoon. It will be hard at first, but keep going. Make sure the yolk is completely absorbed before adding more. Continue until all the yolk is used and the dough is smooth.
- Transfer the dough to a piping bag and lay out a sheet of wax paper. Slowly and evenly squeeze the dough into a round coil with a small hole in the middle. To keep the zeppola from falling apart in the hot oil, make coil two or three concentric circles around each other. While you are doing this, let the oil heat up in a deep pot. Test the temperature with a small piece of dough - it should be hot enough to gently bubble when the dough is added, but not hot enough to splatter or instantly fry the dough to a crisp.
- Cut the wax paper so that each zeppola is on its own square. Place the zeppola face down in the oil. After a few seconds, use a fork to lift off the wax paper and set it aside in a small bowl. Flip the zeppola with a slotted spoon after 3-4 minutes, or once the bottom half begins to turn golden-brown. It will be cooked through after 5-6 minutes, or once the entire pastry is golden-brown. Use the slotted spoon to remove the finished zeppola and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Repeat this process for all of the zeppole. Make sure the oil stays at a consistent temperature. Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly if it starts to splatter.
- Once all the zeppole are fried, use a clean piping bag to top them with crema. Coil it around the top of the pastry in the same way you formed the dough.
- Top with a cherry, garnish with powdered sugar and enjoy.
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