I don’t know at what point this blog turned into a recipe blog, but I’m here for it! Today’s post is no different because here is another recipe that I am sharing with you all, and it is DELICIOUS! I am very excited to show you how to make Zeppole di San Giuseppe (or just Zeppole for short)! These are Italian pastries typically eaten on March 19th for the Festa di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph’s Day). In Canada where I live, a lot of Italian bakeries will sell these during the Month of March for the Festa, as well as April, as an Easter treat as well. So I may have missed San Giuseppe, but I am here delivering the goods for Easter! This is a very traditional recipe, as they are filled with a pastry cream (I show you the recipe as well), studded with Amarena Cherries (sour black cherries in a sugary syrup… they are amazing), and dusted with powdered sugar. The actual Zeppole pastry dough is essentially Choux pastry dough (what you would use to make cream puffs, eclairs, etc..), and the recipe is very typical in that it does not vary much, however, the “cooking” does. There is a lot of debate on how you should cook these, either baked or fried. In order to let you be the judge on what is better, I give you the directions for BOTH baked and fried (al forno or fritte) and I both bake and fry these pastries on my video recipe HERE! I couldn’t decide what I liked better, but baking was probably a bit less hands on. I love these, and I really feel as though the Amarena cherries make all the difference. I know depending on where in the world you live these may be hard to find, however they are worth sourcing. Now without further ado, here is the recipe..
The Vanilla Pastry Cream should be made first because it needs time in the fridge to set up (about 3 hours or even over night if you wish), so I will first share that recipe with you. Scroll down for the Zeppole dough recipe.
Vanilla Pastry Cream Ingredients:
2 Cups Milk (I used 2%)
1/2 Cup Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
2 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Vanilla Bean Paste *optional
1/4 Cup Butter (Unsalted)
Vanilla Pastry Cream Directions:
Add the milk to a medium sauce pot and place on the stove on a medium heat, allowing it to slowly come to a boil.
While the milk heating, in a separate bowl add all of the ingredients listed, except for the butter (that comes later) to a medium bowl, and whisk to incorporate.
Once the milk comes to a boil, you can slowly pour half of the milk into the sugar-yolk mix, while continuously whisking (this will temper the eggs). Once half has been slowly poured in, you can pour the rest of the milk in and mix to combine.
Now add this mixture back into the medium sauce pot, and return to the stove on a medium/low heat, while continuing to whisk (about 2 minutes).
You will see that this mixture has already thickened up, now take this mix off the heat, and add the butter (cubed), a bit at a time, until it has melted down and fully incorporated into this mixture.
Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before placing this into the fridge. When it has cooled you can cover it with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly over the top of this pastry cream so that a skin will not form in the fridge while this cream is setting.
This needs to cool, thicken, and set in the fridge for at least 3 hours (or even over night if you wish).
Now that the pastry cream is out of the way, we are ready to make the Zeppole batter!
Zeppole Batter Ingredients:
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Butter
1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Flour
4 Large Eggs (Room Temperature)
Zeppole Batter Instructions:
Add water, butter, and salt to a medium sauce pot, and place on the stove over a medium heat.
Allow this mixture to come to a boil, then lower the heat to low, add the flour all at once, while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until this batter forms into a ball.
Take off the heat, and spread the dough apart allowing it to cool (you can transfer this to a medium bowl to speed up the process).
After 3 minutes or so, once it has cooled down a bit, we can add the eggs. You need to add the eggs one at a time. What I did was pre-crack the eggs, and so I like to give that mixture a whisk, and then take 1/4 cup at a time of the egg mixture and add that to this batter.
You will need to add 1 egg at a time (or 1/4 cup) and mix well to incorporate before adding the next addition of egg, and so on.
It is quite the arm workout, doing this with a wooden spoon, and at times it looks like this will not incorporate, but it does!
Now that the Zeppole batter is done, we can clean up a bit, fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, and pipe these up…
You will need a large sheet of parchment paper, whether you are baking or frying these zeppole, and you will need to pipe these in a donut shape and size more or less, leaving a hole in the middle. You can watch me do that in this VIDEO!
Once you have piped these, you should end up with about 8. Now if you are baking these you can leave them on the parchment paper, and bake…
Pre-heat your oven to 400 Degrees F and bake the piped zeppole (that are on the parchment paper), for 15 minutes at 400, then lower your oven to 375 Degrees F (without opening your oven), and bake for 10 more minutes. Next, turn off your oven and leave the zeppole in there for another 10 minutes. Then you can remove them and allow them to cool before cutting open and filling. This seems tedious, but they come out great this way (just be sure to set a timer).
Take a large or medium pan (any pan deep enough to fry in), and fill it about 1/2 way up with oil (I use vegetable oil, but you can use whatever oil you like to fry in).
It is always a good idea to have a thermometer when you are frying, that way you can control the temperature of the oil, because in my experience it can get too hot way too fast.
I like to fry these at about 165 Degrees Celsius (or around 330F), I find anywhere between 165-170 is good.
I fry one at a time, but that is because I was only frying 4 in this case, I think if I were frying this entire batch, I would have been more rebellious and fried 2 at a time, but you really do not want to over crowd the pan.
This will seem very strange, but you will be frying the parchment paper. What I do is after I have piped these, I cut them into squares to separate them. What you will have is a square of parchment paper with a piped zeppole on top. I then place this square face down into the hot oil. After only a few seconds you will easily be able to remove the parchment paper from the piped zeppole (do this with tongs of course).
I find these need about 4 to 5 minutes per side, while continuously flipping every now and then.
Allow these to cool before cutting open and filling with pastry cream.
Now you have completed either baking or frying the dough you are ready to fill these babies!
Filling the Zeppole:
Once the zeppole have cooled, I like to cut them in half with a serrated knife (diagonally), because I like to fill both the inside and top of these with that delicious vanilla pastry cream!
Have your pastry cream ready in a piping bag and fill the inside of the zeppole with the cream. I also like to take the Amarena cherries, cut them in half, and place about 4 or 5 inside, with a little bit of that cherry syrup as well.
Place the top on, and pipe them either in the center with more cream, or on top in little dollops. You can even leave the top plain, with just powdered sugar, especially if you will be transporting these (but who can say no to extra cream)!?
I then place an Amarena cherry on top (or more), and dust with powdered sugar, and even more cherry syrup as well. How you decorate these Zeppole are up to you!
TA DA! You have now made Zeppole and are ready to eat them!! They are so delicious!
If you are taking these to an event, like I said, I would recommend piping them the day of, but everything can be made in advance. If you prefer, you can pipe these all up, and keep them in a container in the fridge for up to 5 days! Much like most baked goods, these are best eaten fresh.
If you are having trouble finding these Amarena cherries, you can substitute (but that is almost sacreligious to an Italian haha! Honestly though, do what feels right, but the Amarena cherry and that delicious syrup really take these over the top into another realm of deliciousness. These are quite costly because they are imported from Italy (a small enough jar can cost $10 to $20, so use these sparingly! If you have trouble finding these cherries in a specialty grocery store, you can even order these online (amazon sells them as well – what doesn’t Amazon have)?
Thanks so much for reading and hopefully watching me make these on my YouTube channel as well. I like to provide video recipes as it always helps to have a proper visual, as words can sometimes be tricky! Please don’t be intimidated to make these, they are actually easier than you think, and quite delicious. I will no longer need to buy these at my local Italian bakery! If you give these a try or have any questions, please feel free to let me know, or ask. Of course, tag me on Instagram if you make these (@ladolcelisa) I would love to see your creations!
This year I am too late for San Giuseppe, but if you are making these for Easter, or just any occasion I hope you enjoy this recipe 🙂