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Zeppole (Italian donuts, without yeast, San Giuseppe fritters, St. Joseph fritters, Carnival fritters)
Originated from: Southern Italy
Occasion: Feast Day of St. Joseph (March 19th) and Carnival
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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1 cup flour (approximately)
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon

Vegetable oil for frying*
Confectioners' sugar [icing sugar] for dusting

* Prior to World War II olive oil was used for deep frying in Italy, but nowadays most North Americans of Italian origin use all-purpose vegetable oil; however, most cooks, Italian or otherwise, agree that canola oil or peanut oil is best for frying as these oils don't leave an aftertaste


Cream the butter, sugar and eggs together.

Add the vanilla extract to the mixture.

Mix flour, ground almonds, grated lemon zest and baking powder together.

Meanwhile, put the water in a pot and boil it.

Take the pot of boiling water off the stove, cool for a few seconds, and then add the pre-mixed flour, ground almonds and baking powder all at once, stirring quickly.

Return the pot to the stove with the mixed dough and let it cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until the dough starts to pull easily from the pan and forms a ball (about three to five minutes).

Remove the dough from the heat and place it in an electric mixer.

Using attachments for kneading, knead the dough for about eight minutes. The dough needs to be completely cooled before you can go on to the next step (If the mixture is not cooled, the eggs will start to cook, and that's not a good thing!).

Add the creamed eggs and sugar to the dough and continue kneading it in the electric mixer for four to five minutes.

The resulting dough should be soft and malleable -- a bit like gnocchi dough. If it's way too soft, add more flour, and keep kneading.

Place the dough on a floured wooden board and shape it into a big ball.

Take small chunks of the dough-ball and make sausage-like rolls out of it (about six inches in length, and one and a half inch thick). If the dough feels too soft and can't be shaped, don't give up, simply roll the dough in flour, and then try again.

Once you have the six-inch sausage roll, form a circle with it. Stick the ends together (The easiest way to do this is to punch one side to the other, you might not get a perfect circle, but that's O.K.). Of course, if you're a really great cook and have the time, you could make the rings by using a pastry bag, but if you're just having fun, then it's not necessary).

Heat the oil and fry the zeppole a few at a time, until they are golden brown on both sides.

Remove and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.


North Americans often think of "zeppole" as cream puffs because that's what pastry shops sell in March round the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. However, the cream puff style of zeppole is a rather modern take on this recipe. Apparently, prior to the 20th century "zeppole" was just another donut-shaped fried dough that was sweetened with sugar. In some areas of Southern Italy it was also made for the Christmas holidays. Nowadays "zeppole" is generally associated with the Feast Day of Saint Joseph (at least this is the case in North America). North American style of "Zeppole" come in many different shapes and forms [See the category, "Pastries for the more "modern" take on the zeppole recipe]. The recipe presented here is the older version, is often referred to as an "Italian donut." Note: For a similar recipe that is just as tasty and a touch easier to do see the recipe, "Tarallucci di Natale" in the category, "Taralli Dolci." Photo: Mary Melfi

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