A taste for tradition

Celebrate St. Joseph's Day in style by making your own zeppole


What could be more “Rhode Island” than zeppole on Saint Joseph’s Day?

Being Italian, my family and I have always had zeppole on this holiday. A few years ago, I began making them for friends, family and my students, using online resources like YouTube to search for recipes.

The big day is just a week away. Perhaps some readers would like to attempt to make their own zeppole this year!

These pastries can be made at home if you’re willing to give it some time and patience. It’s never too early to start practicing – or too late to give it a shot – so I thought I would share my recipe with all of you!

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

1 cup water

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour 

(if you want softer pastry shells, 

use pastry flour)

1 stick unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces

4 large eggs (you most likely 

will need to add 1-3 tbsp)

¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the water, butter and ¼ tsp salt in a saucepan. Turn on the heat to high and stir the three ingredients until they melt. Then bring to boil.

As soon as it starts to boil, turn off heat and add all the flour at once. Work quickly to stir over the hot element until it comes together. Then, turn the stove to medium (#5) and stir for three minutes. Get underneath the dough with the spoon, turn it over, and press down.

Transfer the dough to a bowl. Use a hand mixer on low speed for two minutes to mix the dough and cool it down releasing the steam.

Add one egg at a time, mixing with the hand mixer at low speed. Do this until you have incorporated the four eggs. Then add the additional egg (if you feel you need it) and mix at low speed until it’s a good consistency (glossy and thick and you can make a deep ridge with your finger that stays). Finish by mixing well at high speed just to be sure it’s incorporated!

(Note: If you decide to use pastry or cake flour, this may change the amount of egg you will need – probably more.)

Take the dough and spoon it into a pastry bag with a star tip attached. Use it to pipe the dough into thick circles onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Place in a 400-degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not open the door until the 22-minute mark when you check to see how brown they are and then decide how much longer they need. Leave them in longer for crispier shells. With five minutes left to go, open the oven and poke a hole in each one with a toothpick. Close the door and resume baking for the last five minutes. Then remove from the oven.

Wait about 30 minutes and then cut each pastry shell in half and add some crema pasticcera to both halves. Then re-assemble the pastries and decorate the top with more crema pasticcera with a pastry bag. Dust with powdered sugar and then top with a maraschino cherry.

(Note: The shelf life of these pastries is short – serve within an hour or two after filling them.)

Crema pasticcera

3 egg yolks 

½ cup sugar

4 tbsp flour or cornstarch 

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

Lemon and/or orange rinds

Heat the milk on medium in a saucepan but do not boil.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until pale and incorporated.

Then add the flour to the bowl and whisk until incorporated.

Add a ladle of the milk to the egg mixture in the bowl and mix well. For additional flavor, add lemon or orange rinds – or both – with the milk and keep them in during mixing.

Slowly drizzle the rest of the milk into the bowl and mix well.

Pour the entire mixture from the bowl back into the saucepan.

Return to the burner and place on medium heat whisking constantly.

Keep whisking until the mixture thickens well. Allow to heat to at least 180 degrees. (Once you see bubbles, let it go for a minute or so and take its temperature.)

Once thick, remove from heat and add the vanilla and stir well.

Allow to cool at room temperature and then place in the fridge four hours.

James DiPasquale resides in North Providence and teaches at Burrillville High School.


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