Last week, we had some friends over for dinner. For the main dish I served the Italian Pasta Bake, so for dessert I wanted to stay true to the Italian theme. When I received Giada's New Italian Favorites cookbook for Christmas, this was one of the first recipes I marked. A few weeks later, we were in the city having dinner with friends at a popular Italian (tapas style) restaurant and ordered these for dessert. Tasting them furthered my desire to make them at home but I still didn't find the time. Then, two weeks ago I happened to catch Giada making them on one of her Food Network shows. I took it as a sign that I had to get my butt in gear, especially after watching Giada and seeing how simple it was!
These Italian Doughnuts, also known as Zeppole, are fluffy and delicious. The shell texture is a little more pastry-like compared to your regular doughnut holes. You can make many different flavors and use many different toppings. I rolled them in sugar and put together a basic chocolate ganache for dipping. Oh my soul, they were outstanding!
I used a hybrid of Giada's recipe from her cookbook (orange flavored) and the recipe from Food Network.com. Changes are reflected below. I do not own a thermometer (yet) so I had to guess when the oil was ready. Basically, it's ready when a cube of bread browns within minutes. You can usually tell by the sizzle.
Be careful when you discard the oil afterward. Probably the best way to do it is let it cool down, then pour it into a jar (or coffee can) with a lid and discard it with the rest of your trash. I've read that some people even freeze it before throwing it out, and others pour it into their backyard. (I wouldn't recommend as various animals may be attracted to this.) You can also check out local restaurants and see if they will take your leftover oil as many of them have a place to recycle it.
Zeppole (Italian Doughnuts)
Yield: 2 dozen doughnuts
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (plus more for topping)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
For Chocolate Sauce
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate chips
For the doughnuts: In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 10 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour. Using a wooded spoon, quickly stir the mixture until all the flour is fully incorporated and forms a thick dough.
Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously for 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment. With the machine running on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time until fully incorporated. Beat the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes until thick and glossy. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in a couple of minutes.)
Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 small spoons, carefully drop scoops (about 1 tablespoon) of the dough into the oil. (Do not crowd the pan,) Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, turning occasionally, until the zeppole are golden and puffed. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.
For the chocolate sauce: Place chocolate chips into a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until hot but not boiling. Pour over the chips and let set one minute. Stir until smooth.
When the zeppole is cool enough to handle, roll in sugar and then dip the top halves in the chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Giada's New Italian Favorites and FoodNetwork.com
**Penny Says: Reusing the oil is economical. Let the used oil cool, then place it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth and strain it into a clean empty glass jar. Store in the refrigerator and reuse it (for similar recipes) up to 4 times.