Zeppole Di San Giuseppe are traditional Italian pastries prepared every March 19 for the Feast of St Joseph’s Day which also happens to be Father’s Day in Italy.
What are Zeppole
Zeppole are simply Italian doughnuts that come in a variety of forms.
A very popular one here on the blog are these Zeppole Ricotta Doughnuts. They resemble little doughnut holes and are so light and fluffy.
My family loves them so much that I switched up the flavours a little to make these adorable and delicious Pumpkin Ricotta Zeppole (Italian Doughnuts)
These Zeppole di San Giuseppe that you see here today are more pastry-like!
They’re also commonly known as Sfinci di San Giuseppe or Bigne di San Giuseppe, depending on which area of Italy one hails from.
Although you can deep fry them, these are oven baked and filled with a creamy custard. Then they’re topped with an extra dollop of the custard, a generous dusting of powdered sugar and crowned with an Amarena cherry.
The dough for these Italian pastries is much like a Choux pastry or even a puff pastry. It’s both light and hallow.
And much like a Choux pastry or pâte à choux, the dough’s main ingredients are:
How to make pastry dough for Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Making the dough for this Italian pastry is really quite simple.
It’s just a process of bringing water, butter, sugar and salt to a full boil.
Once the butter has melted you add in the flour and baking powder while stirring vigorously till the flour has absorbed all the liquids.
You then increase the heat a little and cook for about 2 minutes while stirring continuously. This step removes the raw taste of the flour.
You’ll then transfer the pastry dough to a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat the dough for about one minute. This step allows the dough to cool slightly before incorporating the eggs.
Then the eggs are beaten in one at a time while beating well after each addition.
When ready, the dough should look thick and smooth.
At this point, you’re ready to pipe the rosettes.
How to pipe rosettes for Zeppole di San Giuseppe
You’ll need a piping bag with a star tip attached.
Once you’ve filled the piping bag with the dough, pipe rosettes directly onto your prepared baking sheet in a circular motion.
You need to pipe two layers of rosettes, one on top of the other leaving a space in the centre. It will look slightly like a bird’s nest.
They can be piped in 2 to 3 inches in diameter. I much prefer piping them 2 inches round as these pastries do puff up when baking. You should have about 17 pastries.
But if you make them bigger, say 3 inches in diameter it will yield 2 dozens pastries.
Space the rosettes about 2 inches apart because they need the extra room to expand.
Then bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F. for about 25 to 30 minutes. When ready they’ll have a deep golden brown colour.
Allow the pastries to cool completely before filling them with the creamy custard.
Use a serrated knife to slice the pastries. And, while using another pastry bag with a star tip, pipe the custard on the bottom half of the pastry. Just along the edges is fine!
Then simply place the tops right back on and pipe more custard on the top centre.
Give them a generous dusting of powdered sugar and crown your zeppole with an Amarena cherry.
Amarena cherries are very small, dark coloured, Italian sour cherries.
These wild cherries grow in the cities of Bologna and Modena, Italy.
You can find them bottled in syrup in Italian specialty shops. This bottled variety has such a sweet and intense cherry flavour and are typically used in desserts such as with these Zeppole di San Giuseppe.
I love to always have a jar of these cherries around because I simply adore them in these Amarena Wild Cherry Biscotti recipe. And they’re just as wonderful spooned over a double scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
But if you can’t find any, Maraschino cherries will make a great substitute!
Make ahead tips:
These pastries are best eaten on the same day they’re baked because the pastry is at its crunchiest then but really they’re just as delicious on day 2 or even day 3.
The dough will simply be softer but they’ll still taste amazing!
So my make ahead tip would be to make the custard the day before you plan to serve the pastries. And let the custard chill in the fridge overnight!
The next morning, bake the zeppole and set them aside to cool. And then simply fill them with the custard just before serving!
So simple yet so delicious!
Happy baking dear friends!
Zeppole Di San Giuseppe
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier liquor (or sweet Marsala wine)
- 2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- 12 pitted Amarena wild cherries (bottled in syrup)
- powdered sugar (for dusting)
PREPARING THE CUSTARD
- In a medium sized sauce pot whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, lemon zest and the Grand Marnier over low heat until thoroughly mixed.
- Whisk in the milk and the cream until combined.
- Increase the heat slightly and continue whisking until mixture thickens and has the appearance of thick cream. Should take about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer the custard to a clean bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Then cover the custard with cling wrap, allowing it to touch the custard and chill for about two hours. The custard will thicken even more as it chills.
- Meanwhile make the pastries.
PREPARING THE PASTRY
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium sauce pan add one cup of water, the butter, sugar, salt and bring to a full boil until the butter melts.
- Add in the flour and baking powder beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined. The flour will absorb all the liquid and form a ball.
- Continue cooking and stirring the mixture for about 2 minutes as this will get rid of the raw flour taste.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for about 1 minute. This allows the dough to cool slightly before adding the eggs.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition while stopping to scrape down the bowl occasionally.
- When ready, the dough will be thick and smooth looking.
- Spoon the dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
- Pipe a rosette of 2 inches in diameter directly onto the parchment lined cookie sheet and top with a second layer of rosette. Basically one on top of the other. It will have the appearance of a bird's nest.
- Repeat with the remaining dough while spacing the rosettes 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The pastries should be light golden brown colour.
- Allow the pastries to cool completely before filling with the custard.
- When ready to fill the pastries, slice them in half with a serrated knife.
- Spoon the chilled pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe the pastry cream onto the bottom half of the pastries and place the tops back on.
- Pipe some more pastry cream over the top centre of the pastries.
- Dust generously with powdered sugar and top each with an Amarena cherry