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zeppole di Vigilia di Natale
Zeppole di Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve Fritters, fried dough with yeast, dusted with table sugar)
Originated from: Cantalupo, Isernia, Molise
Occasion: Christmas Eve
Contributed by: Mrs. Carmella Romano

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1 kilo flour
1 packet Fleischmann's traditional dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), proofed in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
about 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Vegetable oil for deep frying (preferably Sunflower oil)

For dusting
Regular table sugar


o Proof yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Stir. Let rest for about 15 minutes.

o Beat egg.

o In a large bowl, mix flour and salt.

o Make a well in the seasoned flour and add the proofed yeast along with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Mix.

o Add beaten egg.

o Add a touch more water [about 1/2 cup] until the resulting batter looks similar to one used to make pancakes (The resulting mixture should be a thick batter, rather than a soft dough).

o Cover the container with the batter with plastic wrap. Place a kitchen towel over the container.

o Place the covered container in a warm room (about 80 F degrees), or keep in an oven (that is Not turned on).

o Let the batter rest for 2 to 3 hours (It should increase in size).

o When the batter has risen and one is ready to fry the zeppole, heat up the vegetable oil (preferably Sunflower oil). To see if the oil is hot enough, add a piece of bread. If the piece of bread zizzles, then it is the right temperature.

o Using a tablespoon (or one that is a touch larger than a regular tablespoon) scoop up the batter in it.

o Drop the batter in the hot oil.

o Fry the zeppole until golden.

o Remove the zeppole and drain on kitchen paper towels.

o Dust with regular table sugar.

o Repeat the steps until all the dough has been processed (keeping in mind that the zeppole do not have to be uniform in size -- in fact, the more diverse in shape they are, the prettier the presentation).

o Serve warm or at room temperature.


Mrs. Carmella Romano notes that the batter used to make these fritters is the same as that used for "zeppole con alici," zeppole with anchovies. In fact, when she makes them for the Christmas holidays she uses the same batter for both types of fritters, except of course she does not add the anchovies for "zeppole di vigilia di Natale." Mrs. Carmella Romano remembers that when she was growing up in her hometown of Cantalupo in the 1940s "zeppole di vigilia di Natale" were served at the start of the meal rather than at the end of it. Even though they are dusted with sugar the fritters are not seen as dessert, but rather as an entre. In the 1940s zeppole were only made for Christmas Eve and not at any other time. If there were leftovers they might be served on Christmas, but they were rarely any leftovers as most cooks made just a few fritters (one or two per person). At that time fritters were considered expensive treats as the olive oil needed to fry them was expensive (especially for those who did not grow their own olive trees). Even though the olive oil that the fritters were fried in was reused to fry other foods, the fritters usurped a great deal of oil, so they were thought of as a luxury food served only for the holidays..... The fritters in this entry were made by Mrs. Carmella Romano for Christmas Eve festivities; the photo was taken by Mary Melfi.

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