March 19 is St Joseph’s Feast Day in Italy, and zeppole are the traditional sweet of the day (old-fashioned Italian pastries quite often have a saint or a saint’s day attached to it; typical Catholics, always bringing religion into it!).
When I was growing up, my nonna just used to make zeppole whenever she felt like it (I only found out about the whole saint thing later) but as far as I’m concerned, even if St Joseph never existed, making these on March 19 is no sillier than eating chocolate at Easter or Christmas cake and mince pies at Christmas.
Here’s the recipe (as shown to me by my nonna and then written down by me):
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups sugar
3/4 cup flour (nonna used 1/2 cup, but that just didn’t work for me)
3/4 cup self-raising flour (again, nonna used 1/2 cup, but that just didn’t work for me)
Put water, sugar, butter, salt into saucepan and bring to boil.
Add flour and agitate (nonna’s word) with a wooden spoon for 2 or 3 minutes until makes a ball. Remove from heat and cool.
Roll dough into sausages and then into “o” shapes, ready for frying (I need to interject at this point and say that though this is how nonna does it, I always need to knead the dough a bit with some flour first, to get the stickiness out, before I can roll the dough into anything. I don’t know what my grandmother does to make this work without this step, but I have seen her do it. Maybe she has magical non-sticky hands?).
Fry in oil, turning once, when the first side has started to colour.
Cover in melted honey, and 100s and 1000s if desired. Makes about 24.
This year’s zeppole turned out a bit harder than last year’s. It may have to do with the way I fried them; I used the coconut oil that I was sent by living earth (if you remember this post) because I figured if they ended up coconut flavoured, it wouldn’t really matter. They didn’t, as it turns out, but I did have to use up the whole $13 jar and if I’d paid for that myself, I would have felt a bit extravagant.
Using the oil was really interesting. I jacked up the electric frying pan to 150 degrees and not so much as one single spit; the oil just went “yep, I’m really hot. What next?” Less bits and bobs fell off the pastry during frying and they didn’t burn and go yuck, they kind of just hung around at the bottom of the pan, calmly.
A friend has told me that she’s had this recommended to her as cooking oil by her naturopath, but can’t bear to use it when preparing savoury food because she can taste it (she gave up after the coconut-flavoured scrambled eggs she ate) but I think that it’s probably a winner for frying sweet treats (if a little pricey).
UPDATE: The next day, the coconut taste was a bit more pronounced (or that could have just been that the ones leftover had less honey on them). Also, the pastries were softer and, I think, better. Just to let you know 🙂