Imagine biting into this sweet crusty Italian treat. These zeppole are crunchy and crisp on the outside while light and soft inside. Freshly rolled in sugar and cinnamon these little bites are completely decadent. Zeppole are to Italians what doughnuts are to Americans. Pure sinfullness!
This recipe is ideal for a lazy afternoon, perhaps on the weekend, when you are in no rush. The secret to fluffy zeppole is to let them rise 2 times. I make the dough, let it rise and go do something else. After a while I give it a quick stir to deflate it then go do something else again. I let the dough do it's thing without worrying about the clock. Thus it's best to do this when you have little time constraints. I've even left it in the kitchen for hours before I deflated it. The dough rose out of the bowl. It was even better that it had happened that way.
Although zeppole are not healthy eating, they are so much part of the fun times we have with our family at our Sunday gatherings I wanted to add them in. We make these mostly in the summer when we are at nonna's house...that's my mom. She has an outdoor kitchen, so we don't mind frying there. The kids, and adults too, line up for these sweet treats while they're still in the pan.
As a kid we would go over to the carnival the church held every summer. One thing we always got there were the zeppole. You had to get there early so that the oil was fresh, at least according to my mother and aunt. They wouldn't go, but would send us kids, my sister and cousins in for the goods. We would get to ride the rides and play the games and before we were ready to leave we'd get the zeppole for them.
Around that same time, my mom started experimenting on the zeppole herself. She knew how to make them from when she was a kid, she just had to recall the right mix. Well, fast forward many years to the present and I tell you the recipe is perfect. You really cannot mess these up! Even imperfect zeppole are amazing, so keep that in mind. Be brave and give it a try!
For the dough:
Flour, 8 cups unsifted all purpose
Sugar, 1 tbsp
Salt, 1 tspn
Butter, 1 stick softened
Eggs, 2 beaten
Yeast, 3 heaping teaspoons dissolved in 1 cup warm water
Milk, 3 cups warmed
Corn oil, 4 cups
For the topping:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground cinnamon*
*(or (see notes at bottom) 2 cups powdered sugar
In a shallow bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and set aside. In a cup, dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water, mixing well until fully dissolved. If the yeast is active, it will bubble up. That's good. Stir until fully dissolved. In a large bowl add flour, sugar, butter, salt, eggs, and dissolved yeast. Add milk one cup at a time, stirring the mixture together by hand. Mix well until it forms a (sticky) dough. The mix is very sticky. The batter will have the consistency of softened marshmallow. Wash your (very dirty) hands off with warm water. Once dried add a small amount of oil to your hands and rub it on the top of the dough so it wont stick to the plastic wrap you will be placing on top of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The dough may rise up and out of the bowl, but thats ok. After 45 minutes to 1 hour, deflate the dough by stirring it 5 or 6 times with a wooden spoon. Cover the dough again and let it sit again for another hour. At then end of the second rising, it's ready to fry. In a large frying pan heat the oil, no thermometer necessary. After about 5 minutes on medium heat drop in a tiny pinch of dough. If it fries up and rises to the top, it's hot enough. Once the oil is hot, add 1 heaping tablespoon of dough to the oil at a time. Don't overcrowd the pan, about 10 or 12 zeppoles at a time is enough. Fry them till golden, usually 3-4 minutes then turn them over once to get them golden on the other side. Drain on paper towels for a couple minutes then roll them in the sugar cinnamon mixture. Serve immediately.
Servings: Makes about 60 zeppole
Note: you can roll them in powdered sugar if you prefer.