My guess is that you have been seeing these delicious Italian pastries just about everywhere for the past month. Most people who have Italian friends or family know all about the tradition. It’s almost March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day in Italy and these Zeppole Di San Giuseppe are the most offered gift (they are also available weeks leading up to the special day).
“On March 19, Italy celebrates St. Joseph’s Day, a day dedicated to Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. The saint is honored with feasts and parades, especially in the south of Italy. It is the onomastico (Saint’s “name day” ~ a second birthday of sorts) for all those named Giuseppe or Giuseppina. Since 1968, the day is also father’s day in Italy. Basically, there’s a reason for everyone in Italy to celebrate”. (Food Lover’s Odyssey Blog)
These pastries can be either baked or fried. I prefer the baked variety so this recipe here is for a baked zeppole. There are so many variations of this pastry. The filling can be a vanilla pastry cream, ricotta based cream and you can even add a little bit of lemon zest in the cream for a fresh lemon flavour. Traditionally, the inside is brushed with the syrup of the Amarena sour cherries and these cherries also decorate the top of the zeppole. Recently I have seen zeppole topped and/or filled with strawberries and whipped cream, chocolate and even other fresh fruit!
Zeppole Di San Giuseppe
Yields: 12 medium sized Zeppole
Pastry Dough:1 cup of water
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons of all-purpose flour
2 cups of whole milk
1 jar of Amarena Sour Cherries
Set your oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Pastry dough: Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan, place over medium heat and stir to melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and, with a wooden spoon stir in all of the flour. Continue to stir until the mixture is a paste-like consistency (about 2 minutes), then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean. The dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low for 30 seconds. Slowly add the eggs (1 at a time), beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding in the next. Continue adding in the eggs until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with a paddle. The dough should hold its shape. If the dough is too stiff, add another egg and mix until incorporated (I did not need the additional egg).
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and cool to room temperature. Pipe into a circle or into molds. If the tops are uneven, dip your finger into water and smooth them.
Bake on middle rack for 15-20 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Pastry Cream: Set up an ice bath. Place a medium bowl in the ice water. Put the yolks in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add it to the yolks, mix on medium-low speed for 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar, then mix on medium speed until lighter in colour (about 1-2 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl then mix on medium-high speed for about 1 minute, until pale yellow and thick. When the whisk is lifted the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add in the milk. Scrape down the bowl again and mix until combined.
Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir gently with a whisk until it begins to thicken. As the cream comes to a simmer, rotate the whisk around to keep the cream from scorching. Once you see bubbles breaking at the surface, cook for another 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly until the pastry cream has thickened. Thickening process could take up to 20 minutes depending on heat source.
Pour the pastry cream into the bowl set over the ice bath and cool to room temperature. Put into the fridge and cool completely (overnight is best). The cream can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Assemble your Zeppole: Brush the 2 halves of the pastry shell with the cherry liquid (optional). Place custard filling in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the custard over the bottom half of the pastry shell. Place the top half of the pastry shell on top. Pipe additional stars of the custard on the top of the shell and add a halved Amarena Sour Cherry to the dots of custard. Lightly dust the zeppole with powdered sugar before serving. Serve immediately.