March 19th marks the observation of St. Joseph’s Day in the Roman Catholic faith. Growing up in an Italian family, marking saints’ days was a very big deal – especially if you were named after a saint.
My brother and I remember well the annual parade through the streets around our church on St. Anthony’s Day (my brother is named Anthony).
When you are named for a saint, the celebration of the saint’s day is known as onomastico. In fact, to this day, you will often hear people greet you with buon onomastico on the day that marks your patron saint’s celebration.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Most of the time a significant amount of the excitement around these celebration days stems from the food you know is forthcoming.
For Italians, the celebration of St. Joseph’s Day means zeppole. If you’ve found yourself in the vicinity of an Italian bakery around this time of year, you have undoubtedly seen Zeppole di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day Fritters).
Typically, the zeppole are round, filled with cream and topped with glazed cherries.
I should note, however, that as with all pastries, when regarded at a national level, you may not find zeppole in all parts of Italy. You’re far more likely to see these pastries in bakeries in southern Italy, than you are in northern Italy. And even in southern Italy, you won’t find them throughout.
Here in North America, however, Zeppole di San Giuseppe are common at bakeries that carry on an Italian baking tradition and if you have the chance to sample them, I recommend it.
These were delicious. The pastry is prepared by heating milk, sugar, rum and butter and then adding in flour. Like choux pastry, you then beat in eggs until you have a thick and glossy batter. If you have a pastry bag, now is the time to break it out. You can certainly make these without piping them (dropping them by the spoonful into the oil is an alternative) but they won’t look as nice.
Once fried, the zeppole go for a dip in cinnamon sugar. Not sure how traditional that step is but hey … I’m not complaining!
The filling for the zeppole is a mixture of ricotta, icing sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. In Italy, these would be topped with preserved sour cherries (amarene). I happend to have candied cherries on hand so that’s what I used.
Really, these were so good. Even though St. Joseph’s Day has passed, I encourage you to give them a try.
This is my entry for this week’s edition of Magazine Mondays. I have one entry to point you to this week for MM: Anuja of Simple Baking made Molten Marshmellow Cupcakes from the October 2004 issue of Sunset magazine.
Have a great week, everyone!