Sunday, March 11, 2012


Yesterday was a lazy afternoon here at the Lake. Squirly wind (i.e. no sailing) + lots of clouds (i.e. no attempts at ridding myself of the pallid glow I currently exude) = reading time.

I situated myself on the hammock and re-attempted to tackle a book from my reading list called How Italian Food Conquered the World.

So far, this book has conquered me. It's...very impressive how much research the author did about Italian food's upbringing, but the history just wasn't snatching my attention. That is, until the author mentioned the word zeppole, and the fact that a recipe for these puffy, decadent pastries was on the next page.

[kitchen] adventure time!

My maternal grandmother (and namesake) evidently had quite a knack for making zeppole, or at least enough of a knack for my uncles to salivate upon hearing the word. With nothing better to do,I decided that it was as good a time as any to try my inexperienced hand at 'em. Z got in on the action; here's how it went down:

Before we began, we checked if all the ingredients were available at the Lake House. It was a surprisingly short list, so all systems were go.
  • 5 T. unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • canola oil, for frying (Giada uses olive oil...)
  • 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
Now the steps:
1.  I combined the first four ingredients (butter, salt, sugar, water) in a saucepan, and cranked the heat. Meanwhile, Z prepared a medium-sized saucepan for frying by filling the pan with ~1 inch of oil, and turning on the heat to ~medium. (A deep skillet would have worked, too, if that's what you've got.)

2.  Once the butter/sugar mix came to a boil, we took it off the heat and dumped in the flour (the instructions read, "add the flour all at once"), and stirred "vigorously" until it was mixed well and [slightly] resembled dough. At this point, it seemed kind of like mashed potatoes, honestly.

3.  We returned the pan to the burner, turned the heat to medium, and stirred the dough for another minute before removing from the stove again. Now it had a more dough-like appearance.

4.  Then Z brought out the hand-held mixer and put it to work as I added the eggs, one at a time. The ingredients at this point needed to be pretty well incorporated, so the mixer got turned up to medium for about a minute until we achieved this.

5.  While Z wrestled with the mixer blades to get all the goop off, I went back to the heating oil to see if our desired 375˚ had been reached...

6.  Fryin' time! I got 2 small-ish spoons, dipped 'em in the hot oil to coat them, then scooped up "a wa;nut-size piece of dough" with one....

...and used the other to ease the dollop of daisy dough into the oil. [Sorry for the blurry picture...]

7.  The oil got pretty finicky at this point, so we had to constantly keep an eye on the temperature. This struggle was probably the most notable symptom of our amateurism...

8.  At the right temp. (375˚), the zeppole [called such because they puff up, causing their creators to bring Zeppelins to mind] should pop/spin/turn over on their own when one side is browned--We were like little children when this happened. It's really quite a cute little spectacle (the pastries flipping over without assistance, not us acting like children).
Annnnyway, our instructions said to keep the dough in the oil for ~6mins, "until the zeppole are nicely browned," so that's what we did. More on that later.
lookin' good! (I think...?)
9.  Once we deemed the dough properly fried, we scooped them out of the pan and let them "drain" (what an unappealing word...) on paper towels.

poor lighting + a worthless phone camera = this picture
10.  It took us three rounds of ~9-12 zeppole until the entire batch of dough was used up. Again, we had to keep an eye on the oil temp the whole time, as adding the dough made the temp. drop pretty rapidly.

11.  In a separate bowl, Z mixed up the powdered sugar and the cinnamon so that we could add a nice dusting of the stuff overtop the 'drained' dough. If you have a sifter, use that for this step. We weren't so lucky, so a cheese grater was the closest we could get.

We ended up with a fetching little spread, and Z's family claimed to enjoy the fruits of our labor...

Our thoughts:
I have to admit that, while I know I've had this dessert some time in my life, I don't realllly know what they're "supposed" to taste like. Z and I thought they were a little doughy on the inside, and my sweet tooth thought the dough could have used a drop or two of vanilla extract or something. My mom also claims that her mother's recipe calls for bakers' yeast (which our recipe lacked), so who knows.

After tasting the first batch and experiencing said doughy-ness, we thought, Hmm, maybe we didn't leave them in long enough... Truthfully, I was enraptured by the golden color of the dough in the oil and probably [prematurely] took them out of the pan at this early stage, i.e. before they were "nicely browned" as the recipe called for. On the 3rd batch, Z took over with the intention of heating them longer than the first 2 tries, but they still came out a little soft in the center-- this time, most likely due to the not-quite-hot-enough oil. That was my bad again-- I freaked out and turned off the heat when it got too hot between batches, and forgot to turn it back on...woops.

The moral of the story: It might take a little bit of experimenting before you find the sweet spot. Ours turned out decent [I guess the speed in which they were scarfed up is a good sign...], but I'd bet that another try would get us closer to perfection. Only time will tell...

So Happy Sunday, everyone! Z heads back to school and "real life" tonight. I'll just continue to go along for the ride...

-M (and Z!)

PS- a big WOO HOO! for my future sister-in-law's 5th place, season-best jump at the World Indoor Championships today! Sorry, can't help but brag on her a bit...

1 comment:

  1. They look great and delicious.
    Nonna called Zeppole, Crispedi or Friteli (most likely the Calabrese dialect name)
    Here is the recipe:
    1 1/2 cup water
    3 1/2 cup flour
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla (you are a natural...Nonna is smiling)
    1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
    In a cup of warm water put 1 pkg yeast
    After mixing yeast and water, let sit 5 min then add to above ingredients.
    MIX VIGOROUSLY with hand (using your fingers to mix it),for 10 min, until starts to get loose in hands. (She had the most powerful hands)
    In warm oven, cover with towel and leave 1 hr.
    Heat oil, drop spoon fulls into hot oil till golden (not brown){my brothers loved anchovies stuffed in dough before frying--yuk--she had to make those last}; place on paper towel to drain extra oil; roll in regular sugar (not powdered); serve nice and warm. Yummy