The Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Zeppole of St. Joseph) is a typical dessert of the Neapolitan pastry-making tradition. The name derives from the fact that they are generally prepared in the period of Saint Joseph (19 of March), so much so as to be a typical dessert on Father’s Day.
The Zeppole are prepared in slightly different ways in the various regions of southern Italy, in fact there are different versions: Apulian, Sicilian, Calabrian as well as those of Molise and Marche regions. The main ingredients are flour, sugar, eggs and butter garnished with custard, a sprinkling of icing sugar and black cherries in syrup for decoration.
In the Neapolitan tradition there are two variants of San Giuseppe Zeppole: fried and baked. In some versions, the custard is also placed inside the pasta.
In a saucepan, pour the water and butter, add a pinch of salt and bring to the heat. Stir until the butter is completely melted.
As soon as it starts to boil, add all the flour and mix with the ladle for a few minutes until the dough forms a compact ball. So remove from the heat and let it cool.
Now add the 6 medium eggs, one at a time, mix each egg well before adding the next. Or, it is preferable to beat the eggs all together and then add the liquid a little at a time, continuing to mix. The dough will become thick and creamy.
Fill a piping bag with a 2.5 cm star tip. In a baking tray, lined with baking paper, form the zeppole. Do two laps leaving the center empty and keeping a little distance between them because they swell during cooking.
Put in a fan oven at 200 ° C for the first 15 minutes, then lower to 190 ° C for another 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and keep the door ajar, lock it with a ladle. Keep the zeppole in the oven until cool.
In the meantime, take care of preparing the custard. In a saucepan add the milk, the liquid cream, the seeds you have taken from the vanilla bean and also the empty pod. Bring the mixture to the boil, meanwhile in another bowl add the yolks with the sugar and beat quickly with a whisk. Add the cornstarch and beat again with the whisk until a uniform mixture is obtained. As soon as the milk starts to boil, remove the vanilla pod with kitchen tongs and add the mixture with the eggs. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes or until is thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, cover with wrap and allow to cool completely.
When the San Giuseppe zeppole have completely cooled down, garnish with the custard with the help of the sac a poche, with a star tip. Try to fill the center first and then make a nice curl of custard on top. Put an cherry in syrup in the center of each zeppola and sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar.
Once the zeppole have been formed on a sheet of baking paper, with the scissors cut out the sheet at each zeppola. In a large pan, heat the oil and when it is ready, fry the zeppole a little at a time, dipping them together with the baking paper. After a few seconds the sheet will come off and you can eliminate it with the help of pliers. Continue to fry the zeppole, turning them from time to time until they are beautiful swollen and golden. Then drain on paper towels. Proceed like this until you fry them all. When the San Giuseppe zeppole have completely cooled down, garnish with the custard, the cherries in syrup and the icing sugar.
It would be preferable to consume the zeppole, especially the fried ones, freshly made or within a few hours. You can keep the left ones them in the fridge for 1 day. Baked zeppole can be stored for a few days also in the fridge.
You can keep the cream for 2 or 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Freezing is not recommended.