(St. Joseph’s Day Doughnuts)
My father’s name was Giuseppe (Joseph), and my mother always made Zeppole every year for his namesake day which is on March 19th. Zeppole are my weakness and every time I attend a street fair, I buy a half dozen of zeppole and eat all of them before I leave!
1½ cups milk
One ¼-ounce package active dry yeast
¼ cup granulated sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (see Note)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup powdered or granulated sugar
In a small saucepan, heat the milk to body temperature (it should feel neither hot nor cold when tested with a clean finger). Remove from the heat, add the yeast and sugar, and let sit for 5 minutes, or until the yeast begins to foam. Add the lemon zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and stir vigorously until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it with gusto for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and satiny. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1½ hours.
When the dough has risen, heat 2 inches of oil in a large heavy saucepan to 350 degrees on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. Grab a handful of dough and squeeze it gently so some of it pops out the side of your fist between your thumb and forefinger. When you have a piece the size of a walnut, squeeze your thumb and forefinger together to release the ball of dough into the hot oil. Fry the zeppole, a few at a time, for about 1½ minutes on each side, or until browned on both sides, then transfer them with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Dust with powdered sugar or sprinkle with granulated sugar.
NOTE: I choose to make these without the cinnamon since my husband prefers them without the addition of the spice.
Adapted from Sweet Sicily: The Story of an Island and Her Pastries, Victoria Granof (HarperCollins)
A touching novel where a unique pastry shop behind the walls of a secluded convent in Italy, and mouthwatering creations have the power to change one woman’s life.
Food writer Claudia Lombardo has sampled exquisite dishes by the world’s greatest chefs. But when she hears about the remarkable desserts that are created in a pastry shop operated out of a convent in the sleepy Italian hillside town of Santa Lucia del Mela, she wants to write a book featuring the sweets and the story behind their creator—Sorella Agata. But the convent’s most famous dessert—a cassata cake—is what really intrigues Claudia.
Everyone who samples the cake agrees it is like none other they’ve tasted. Yet no one can figure out what makes the cassata so incredibly delicious. Though Sorella Agata insists there is no secret ingredient, Claudia is determined to learn the truth behind the mysterious cake. As she samples each delectable treat—marzipan fruit, rich cream puffs, and decadent cakes—Sorella Agata relates the pastry shop’s history and tells of the young woman, Rosalia, who inspired her.
Kidnapped and separated from her family, Rosalia is subjected to a terrible ordeal—until the nuns find her. As she heals, she learns the art of pastry making, and soon she even finds love with Antonio—an apprentice in the pastry shop. But her heart still aches for the family she lost. And Rosalia knows she will not be whole again until she is reunited with them.
As Claudia unravels the secret of the cassata cake, she discovers a deeper, fascinating story—one that affirms food can do more than nourish the body…it can stir memories, heal the deepest heartaches, and even act as a bridge to those we love, no matter how far apart.
Rosanna Chiofalo is also the author of Stella Mia, Bella Fortuna and Carissima. An avid traveler, she enjoys setting her novels in the countries she’s visited. A first-generation Italian American, her novels also draw on her rich cultural background. When she isn’t traveling or daydreaming about her characters, Rosanna keeps busy testing out new recipes in her kitchen. She lives in New York City with her husband. Readers can visit her website at: rosannachiofalo.com.