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Zeppole are traditionally served on San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day) in Naples, which is on March 19th. They were first made in Naples by a baker and sold in front of his bakery from a street stand. You can still find them served in stalls on the streets today as well as in bakeries. Sometimes they are not rolled into a ball but scooped into the hot oil and look more like a fritter. Recipes can be found in cookbooks as early at 1834.
Emanuele Rocco (Le Zeppole, in Usi e Costumi di Napoli e contorni — Uses and Customs of Naples and Environs, Naples, 1857), who gives Cavalcanti’s recipe and adds, jokingly, that the inventor of such a delight deserves a statue with the following plaque: “Naples invented zeppole and all Italians licked their fingers.” He then says, “Thus our city government will be able to boast that they finally got one right, after all the mistakes they’ve made and continue to make every day.”
They can be made as either a savory or sweet dish. My grandmother made them with a piece of baccala in the middle, which I will post at a later date. My aunts say they were the best zappole they ever had, light as a feather with the salty taste of baccala. But they are still arguing over the recipe.
Zeppole are eaten anytime of the day as a snack or as a dessert after a meal dunked in a sweet wine, Moscato or Grappa.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown
Yield: 24 Zeppole
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1 small apple, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Grappa (Italian Liquor)
2 tablespoons Rum
1 small orange, zest only
Put the raisins into the Grappa and Rum; it should cover the raisins. Let them stand for about 1/2 hour or more.
Blend the eggs and sugar together until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, zest, vanilla and sugar together and add it to the egg mixture in a mixer. Pour in the Grappa and rum from the raisins. Chop the apples very fine and fold them in with the raisins into the batter.
Scoop out about 1/2 tablespoon of the batter. Cover your hands with flour and roll them into about the size of a golf ball. You can also scoop them out with a spoon and make them like fritters.
Heat the oil and drop them one at a time into the oil. They will float to the top and, with a ladle, constantly roll them around in the oil so that they brown on all sides – approximately 3 minutes or until they are golden brown. Place them on a rack or paper towels to drain and cool.
Put them in a bag filled with powdered sugar or granulated sugar mixed with a little cinnamon and gently toss them, coating them with the sugar. They can also be dipped in warm honey.