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February 2009 Issue
Ruminations
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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I’m a little peeved. Wait, let me rephrase that. I’m a LOT peeved.

We had a horrid summer. Cool temperatures, lots of wind and rain. NOT much of a summer. But, they promised us a milder winter instead.

Well, guess what? They didn’t deliver. Now, don’t misunderstand me. The winter of 2007 – 2008 WAS probably the worst we’ve seen in a long time with record breaking temperatures and record snow falls to boot. So, I suppose, when looked at from that point of view, 2008 – 2009 brand winter isn’t really all that bad. But yeesh, when you’ve expected nice mild winter weather, with a clear non-slide path to the hot tub . . .

So, ok, maybe peeved isn’t the right word either . . . how’s disappointed sound?

So February and Valentine’s Day. Having just finished Christmas and New Year’s planning, I’m already thinking about our annual Family Valentine’s Dinner. It’s nice that it falls on a Saturday this year. I’ve been thinking about making Zeppole which are popular at this time of year. They’re basically a puff pastry shaped into a ring and then either sprinkled with a cinnamon sugar mixture, dipped in honey or filled with cream and sliced berries.

Traditionally, Zeppole are made in honour of the Feast Day of St Joseph, 19th March, and it’s around that time that you’ll find them in almost every Italian bakery you pass. But I like to make my cream and berry version for Valentine’s Day.

The recipe below is the traditional version, you’ll notice that it’s a modified cream puff pastry. Whichever version you end up making, or even all three, I can guarantee you a yummy addition to your Valentine’s menu.
 

Zeppole

  • 2 cups water
  • 10 oz granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup light, white wine ( you could use Amaretto or Marsala)
  • oil for frying
  • powdered sugar
Mix water, wine, sugar, and oil in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once. Remove from heat and begin whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a mass. Return to low heat and cook five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add eggs one at a time. Beat vigorously after each addition, making sure that the egg doesn’t cook. Continue beating the dough until it has a satiny texture.

Grease the countertop or board lightly with oil. Turn out the dough and pat down flat. Fold the sides over on itself so there are 3 layers. Repeat this, turning the dough each time, five more times.

Heat oil in a large pot or fryer.

Working with about one third of the dough at a time, keeping the rest covered, and roll out in a log, to the thickness of your thumb. Pinch off into teaspoon sized pieces. Place three or four pieces at a time into boiling oil. Turn and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on brown paper.

Some cooks like to form the zeppole into rings, more like a donut. Roll the dough into snakes about as thick as your little finger, cut them into eight inch lengths, and pinch the ends together to make rings. Fry the zeppole a few at a time, pricking them with a skewer as they fry, so the dough will bubble out and they'll become crunchier and more golden. Drain.

Place in a paper bag and sprinkle powdered sugar over them. Close the bag and shake to cover with sugar.

They can be dredged in a mixture of three teaspoons of cinnamon and one cup of sugar.

They can also be dipped in a honey mixture instead of sugar.

Honey Glaze for Zeppole

  • 3/4 cup (250 g) honey
  • 2/3 cup (125 g) sugar
  • 1 pinch powdered cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Candy sprinkles
Make the zeppole and keep them warm

Mix the honey, water and sugar, and cook the syrup until the fine thread stage (squeeze a drop between thumb and forefinger, then separate them; fine threads that break easily should form).

Lower the flame to an absolute minimum, stir in the cinnamon and the vanilla, and dip the zeppole two or three at a time, removing them with a fork and laying them on the serving dish. When you have finished dipping, sprinkle the zeppole with coloured sprinkles, pour the remaining syrup over them, and serve hot.

Alternatively, and this is the way I prefer to make them, you can pipe (or spoon) out the batter onto baking sheets and bake.

Cut parchment paper to fit your baking sheets and draw circles of about four inch diameter on the underside of the paper. Place them drawing side down on the baking sheet and use the circles you drew as a guide for placing your pastry. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes, or until golden brown.

When cooled, split your rings and fill with Crème Patissiere, Chantilly Cream, or plain whipped cream and sliced berries. Sprinkle tops with icing sugar and serve.

 

 

Chantilly Cream

  • 1 cup whipping, 35% cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (this can be found in most Italian grocers in little single use packets)
Whisk the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until soft peaks form. The cream should hold its shape but still be satiny in appearance.

Chantilly Cream can be refrigerated for several hours. It will lose volume as it sits, and may separate a bit. If this happens simply whisk it lightly before using. If you’re going to be setting in the refrigerator before using, cover it with plastic wrap. Cream absorbs other flavors easily.

 

 

Crème Patissiere

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch salt
Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add the flour and the salt, mix to combine.

When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Gradually dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. When about half of the milk has been added, add all of the yolk mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan when you stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about one minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick. Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place in a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days.

 

Well, that’s it. Whichever way you decide to make yours, I know they’ll be yummy!!! I’ll be experimenting with gluten free flours using this recipe, hopefully I can find a version that comes fairly close.

Have a great Valentine’s Day!!!

TTFN!!!



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