Keep half a glass of milk to one side and put the rest in a large pan together with the opened vanilla pod, and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, but leave the vanilla pod in the milk for a further ten minutes. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is foamy and then add one third of the milk (whilst still lukewarm). Remove the vanilla pod from the pan of milk and sift in the flour, followed by the egg yolk, sugar and milk mixture. Bring to boil again and stir continuously while the mixture simmers for a few minutes, to allow it to thicken. Pour in the remaining glass of cold milk, stir and leave to cool.
Put the water in a pan with the butter and salt. Bring to the boil and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to detach from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, whilst stirring all the time.
How to assemble the dessert
Make the zeppole using a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle, and squeeze out little spirals onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. There are two possible ways to cook the zeppole:
- Fried zeppole: Fill a tall-sided pan with plenty of oil, and warm the oil on a medium heat. Slide one zeppola at a time into the hot oil. When they are puffy and golden, put the zeppole onto kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil, and leave to cool. A handy hint to help the zeppole absorb less oil during frying: put the zeppole in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 3 – 4 minutes before frying them.
- Baked zeppole: Bake the zeppole in a pre-heated oven at 180°C or 200°C, depending on the type of oven, for 20-25 minutes. When they are puffy and golden, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Decorate the zeppole with custard using a piping bag and top off with a Fabbri Amarena and a bit of amarena syrup, followed by a dusting of icing sugar.
Did you know?
"Naples invented zeppole, and the whole of Italy licked their fingers". In 1857 the philologist Emanuele Rocco dedicated this epigraph to the Neapolitan dessert. And zeppole definitely deserve a monument – they are made of delicious choux pastry topped with soft swirls of custard, with the unmistakable Fabbri Amarena on top. Nobody can resist them!
The ancient tradition of zeppole di San Giuseppe
A typical dessert from southern Italy has conquered the entire peninsula! Zeppole are a great favorite with young and old alike. In Ancient Rome, during the Liberalia festival, wine flowed freely to honor Bacchus, and wheat was fried in honor of the god of wheat. Zeppole are well known as a sweet, fried treat, and fried dough has played a role in the Italian culinary tradition for centuries. However, it was only in 1837 that the recipe appeared in the Neapolitan cookery book by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicini.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe are associated with Italian father’s day, when they are traditionally eaten by families all over Italy. March 19 is a special day for these delicious treats, although they can be found in homes and pastry shops all year round, but especially in the run up to Easter.
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