If you make a batch of zeppole tonight, be forewarned: Someone might say you shouldn't. After all, you're supposed to eat zeppole on St. Joseph's Day, and that's a long way off.
Children up and down the Italian boot connive year round to get their mammas to make these triangle-shaped delights.And when they do, they once again hear the story that comes with the treat:
Long ago, every carpenter had a wooden wedge in his tool box. After he soaked the wedge in water, he would insert it between the fault line in quarry stones. As the wood swelled, the wedge would slowly separate the stones, which the carpenter could then easily remove.
Carpenter's wedges were small and triangular, similar in shape to zeppole, delicate puffs filled with sweetened cream, made in honor of that famous carpenter, St. Joseph.
Here are a few versions of this delightful Italian pastry.
ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE
(St. Joseph's Cream Puffs)
(Makes about 16) 1/2 cup butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup water 1 cup flour 4 eggs 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Combine butter, salt and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once and mix well until a dough is formed. Continue mixing until dough leaves sides of pan. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add sugar, orange and lemon peels, and mix thoroughly.
Using a tablespoon, drop dough on a greased baking sheet, forming little triangles if desired. Leave 3 inches between each puff. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and bake for 30 minutes more, or until puffs are golden brown. Make a slit on side of each puffs and fill with either Pasticciera Cream or Sfinge Cream.
SFINGE CREAM 1 pound ricotta cheese 2 tablespoons grated chocolate 1 tablespoons grated orange rind 1 to 2 cups milk 2 teaspoons almond extract Sugar to taste
Carefully mix all ingredients. Use milk sparingly and only as needed to make a smooth, custard-like mixture. Keep refrigerated until needed.
When using Sfinge Cream, slit the zeppole on the top, fill with cream, and top with a cherry and two thin slices of glazed orange peel.
PASTICCIERA CREAM 3 tablespoons sugar 3 egg yolks 3 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon lemon rind (grated) 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups milk 1 tablespoon butter
Place sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon rind and vanilla in a saucepan and mix well, off heat. In another saucepan, scald milk and pour over sugar mixture. Cook over low heat, beating constantly until mixture reaches boiling point. Cook 4 minutes longer, stirring with wooden spoon. Remove from heat, add butter, and mix well. Pour into bowl and cool, stirring occasionally to prevent skin from forming.