St. Joseph's Day Zeppole

For many Italians this day is very special. If your name is Joe or some form of Joseph you are celebrated along with your name saint, Saint Joseph. In honour of this day, March 19th many bakeries serve up this delicious treat filled with pastry cream and topped off with the sweetest amarena cherries you have ever enjoyed! Not to worry though, any cherry or cream will do.
For those that love making choux paste (cream puff pastry) this dough will be very familiar however if you have never made cream puffs before, not to worry this is an easy dough to work with.
Although this treat is special to this day, it is wonderful to enjoy anytime of year for dessert or coffee with friends.
This recipe is from my cookbook "Per La Famiglia" and one that I continue to make to share with family and friends!


When I lived in Vaughan, celebrating St Joseph on March 19th was one of my favourite times of year! Typically in the spring you could see bakery windows filled with these delicious cream filled desserts. Perfect to enjoy with an espresso and share with family. You can fry or bake the pastry and although I am a big fan of frying dough, this baked version is delicious and looks spectacular.

1 cup (250 mL) water
1/3 cup (75 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 mL) granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 batch Lemon Cream (recipe follows)
Black cherries (fresh, frozen or canned)
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Bring water and butter to boil in a saucepan. Stir together flour and sugar in a bowl. Add to water mixture and stir all at once with a wooden spoon to combine and form a ball. Cook, stirring over medium heat for about 1 minute or until mixture has a smooth mashed potato like consistency. Remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Let cool slightly.

Beat in eggs, one at a time using an electric mixer until stretchy, sticky dough forms. Scrape into piping bag or using spoon, pipe or spoon into 12 round wreaths about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Using wet finger smooth tops.
Bake in top and bottom third of preheated oven for 20 minutes alternating pans halfway through. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and using small paring knife poke small hole on side of each puff. Bake for about 5 minutes or until light golden. Let cool completely and slice in half.
Fill each wreath with lemon cream and return top to each. With some of the custard dollop small amounts around the top and top each dollop with cherries. Refrigerate for up to 1 day and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
Makes 12 servings.
Tip: Amarena cherries are packed in sweet syrup and can be found in specialty food shops or Italian delis. Perfect for this dessert or added to your favourite cocktail and drizzled over ice cream!

Lemon Cream

This versatile cream is what my Zia Peppina, my dad’s oldest sister, uses in her tiramisu. But once I made it I found other great uses for it like filling my Peach cookies and as a filling for any favourite cake. Not to mention what my good friend Jesse Lauzon suggested, doughnut filling! And this would work well to fill cannoli shells (the puff pastry ones) that we usually call horns. So delicious and creamy, well frankly its just good with a spoon!

4 cups (1 L) 2% milk
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
4 strips 2-inch (5 cm) each lemon rind

In a small saucepan or microwaveable bowl, heat milk for about 5 minutes or until steaming. (this will take less time in the microwave) 

Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, stir together egg yolks, sugar and flour. Gradually stir in hot milk, changing over to a whisk when mixture is thin enough. Place bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water. Stir in lemon rind. Cook stirring for 15 to 30 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of pudding.

Pour cream through fine mesh sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps and lemon rind. Use right away for recipes such as Tiramisu and Trifle. Cover directly with plastic wrap and chill until firm for recipes such as Peach Cookies or other fillings for cakes or doughnuts. 

Makes about 4 cups (1 L). 


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