Zeppole di San Giuseppe, for Italian Father’s Day. The traditional Zeppole here are flavored with orange and oven baked till golden brown, then filled with a beautiful vanilla bean pastry cream. The topping is a piping of pastry cream and a sour cherry for decoration.
Happy Father’s Day to my father in Italy, and to all the fathers, especially the ones that are far from their children. I think it is always hard for them but it’s in times of celebrations that they feel it the most. Last year I was in Rome and made Bignè di San Giuseppe for my father. He was so happy, the whole day he wore a smile from ear to ear. I had lunch with them and we shared Bignè as a dessert. This year I am far away, but I decided to bake Zeppole anyway, the traditional sweets for this day, and dedicate them to him while sharing them with my father in law and my amazing husband.
There is so much I love about the pate à choux (choux pastry): the process of cooking the flour in water, butter, and in this case orange juice, till nice and thick, and when you incorporate the eggs, one at a time, it turns into a smooth cream, ready to be piped in beautiful shapes. Then the attention you have to put in the baking process, and how they puff and become crispy and golden brown on the outside, while void and airy on the inside, perfect housing for the delicious filling. Of course, they require time and care, with Loreto we spent two and half hours yesterday, and I was so lucky to have him on my side, to help me in the stages of the preparation.
In the morning, as our usual Saturday breakfast outing, we went to try a new bakery and café that opened in South Edmonton called La Boule, renowned for its pastries, especially the éclairs. Entering the shop I saw the éclairs all lined up behind the glass display, gorgeous in all the different flavors, and my mind went to the zeppole that I had to make in the afternoon, hoping they would look a fraction of the beauty they possessed. I think we did a pretty good job with our Zeppole, but I might be biased.
Traditionally, Zeppole di San Giuseppe are deep fried, but in the last years, you can find them also oven baked. Again, like last year with the Bignè, I opted for the baked version. Maybe next year I am going to make deep fried zeppole, they are so good and decadent, an indulgence I would gladly take. They are a very old sweet, originated in Naples, but popular all around Italy, and in Rome, they contend the shelves of the pastry shops with their counterpart Bignè di San Giuseppe.
Zeppole and Bignè have been in my life forever, sometimes homemade by my mother, but mostly bought in well-known pasticcerie, patisserie, where people line up to buy a tray of these beauties. They start to appear in pastry shops, bakeries, and also homes, soon after Carnevale ends, an explosion of cream puffs and rich cream overflowing, plus here and there the vibrant color of the amarena cherries. In Italy, there is always a dessert for an occasion and socialization always bearing gifts for particular celebrations. The pasticceria present their wares in such a manner that is truly a gift, the pastries placed on a decorative golden tray, wrapped in paper and sealed with a ribbon tied around it.
While baking in the oven, the fresh scent of orange permeates the house, then what hits you is the smell of that fresh vanilla bean nestled in the creaminess of the custard, velvety smooth and rich in a most simple sense as it has very few components. As you bite into them, the sour cherry is the first thing you tackle, a nice bite of sour soothed with the syrupy coating, discarding the pit. The sour cherries are our homemade. We made two little jars last summer with Loreto’s uncle sour cherries, and they are delicious. But now down, to some serious tasting. You sink into the zeppole, and the tenderness and lightness of the pastry are evident with those thin voided airy pockets. Then the cream comes through once again with little hints of vanilla tantalizing my tongue to bring an infectious smile to me, then to everyone at the table. The combination of the cream and pastry is a perfect marriage of flavor and texture. These Zeppole di San Giuseppe are a wonderful way to end a meal and to show gratitude to the ones in your life!
Buona Festa del Papà!
Song of the day: The Weeknd – I Feel It Coming (ft. Daft Punk).
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