Deep-fried Traditional St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs (Bignè di San Giuseppe Tradizionali Fritti) are deep-fried choux pastry puffs filled with fragrant lemon scented pastry cream and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are typical of Roman cuisine. Traditionally, they are prepared on March 19th, St. Joseph's day, when Italians also celebrate Father's Day. A pure delight.
Every year, as Italian Father's Day is approaching, on March 19th, I make the traditional deep-fried Bignè di San Giuseppe. Bigne' are none other than puffs, filled with a luscious lemon scented pastry cream. There is also an oven-baked version, and I highly suggest you check it out.
Song of the day: I Want It All - Queen
Every bakery in Rome sells Bigne'
This time of the year there is no Roman pastry shop, café, grocery store, and bakery, that doesn't have Bignè di San Giuseppe proudly on display. A dazzling array of golden cream puffs, deep-fried or baked, with a silky yellow pastry cream peaking through, and the amarena cherry on top of the Neapolitan Zeppole di San Giuseppe.
There are four main steps to make Deep-fried Traditional St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs (Bignè di San Giuseppe Tradizionali Fritti):
- make the choux pastry
- deep fry the choux to make puffs (bigne')
- make the lemon pastry cream
- fill the puffs with the cream
How to make the choux pastry
- In a thick-bottomed saucepan, add the water, butter and the pinch of salt. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the butter has melted and the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and pour inside the sifted flour. After, return the saucepan on the stove and stir the ingredients with a whisk first and then continue stirring with a wooden spoon until you get a ball shaped dough. You have to keep stirring the mixture until you see a white film form at the bottom of the saucepan (about 5 minutes).
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. Beat lightly the eggs and the sugar, then add half the mixture to the dough and stir until well incorporated, adding the other half only when the previous has been completely absorbed (you can use a wooden spoon, a handheld mixer, or better yet, a stand mixer). You want to obtain a smooth and homogeneous batter.
The pastry cream
- Heat the milk in a saucepan with the lemon rind; beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, then add the sifted cornstarch (or flour). Pour the heated milk mixture slowly, mixing with a whisk. Put back the mixture on the stove and stir constantly until the custard has thickened.
- Transfer the custard to a bowl and let it cool with a plastic wrap on top to keep it from drying out.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a medium pot. Scoop a heaped tablespoon of the batter, then use another tablespoon (or your finger) to help drop the mixture carefully into the hot oil. Cook just a few at a time since they will get bigger.
- Cook the bignè slowly over medium heat, turning them occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden and puffed, turning the heat up every so slightly towards the end. During frying, they should split partially and begin growing further. If they brown too quickly, the oil is too hot and you need to turn the heat down. When done, leave to drain on a plate lined with paper towel and continue frying the rest of the batter. Let the bignè cool completely.
Assembly the Bignè
- When both the bigne' and the cream are cool, with a piping bag, pipe the lemon cream into each bignè until full. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
A traditional recipe of the Roman cuisine
The recipe for these Deep fried Traditional St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs (Bignè di San Giuseppe Tradizionali Fritti) comes from an old cookbook with recipes of the Roman Cuisine. It is a jewel of a book filled with almost lost, traditional regional Italian recipes, exactly my cup of tea. As for the pastry cream, it is my go-to, my mom's trusted recipe, made with eggs, sugar, milk, and cornstarch, and flavored with a lemon rind. So silky, smooth, fragrant, just the perfect filling to these puffs.
The taste test
The Deep-fried Traditional St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs are soft, surprisingly light in terms of texture and consistency, and not overly sweet. They feel so light and airy inside, that the cream takes the whole space, so when you bite in you are first welcomed by a smooth, velvety, lemony goodness. Then the lightly crispy exterior blends in and you are left with a smile of pure delight. Not at all greasy, absolutely scrumptious, and such a special treat to celebrate all the Fathers out there.
In the end, even though they are a labor of love, they are worth every minute of it.
Happy Father's Day to all the amazing fathers, and a special thought to my father in law who is no longer with us.Print