Growing up one of my most favorite treats was fried dough with powdered sugar – known by most as Zeppole. Another name my family used for them was “pettole”. It’s what they call Zeppole in the Italian region of Puglia, or at least in my Grandmother’s town in Bari. They are often rolled in “vin cotta” (a reduced wine syrup) . My husbands family, on the other hand, call them Zeppole and drizzle them with honey, they are from the Naples region.
Whatever they are called, Zeppole, Petole, or Italian Donuts, these fried dough treats always bring fond memories of my childhood. My mother even fried leftover pizza dough and called them Zeppole. I have distinct memories of burning my tongue from eating them way too hot.
Ouch,the memories, but I wouldn’t trade them in for anything!
I’ve tried many times to make Zeppole and failed miserably. The outside would be cooked and the inside raw. That’s partially because most Italian Mother’s don’t measure the heat of the oil, but use some sort of eyeball voodoo to know the oil is just right. It is frustrating to say the least. In the past I used my Nonna’s (grandmother) recipe which was written in pounds of this and pounds of that. I sometimes wonder if these so called recipes were written in hieroglyphics or logo graphics it would make them easier to decode.
Like many times before, I almost gave up, until I found this great (very specific) recipe in old church cookbook. It was for Zeppole made with ricotta and flour. It was a great find and I am now able to successfully make this delicious treat!
- Zeppole can be tricky to make, I’ve learned that you must make sure the oil is at exactly the perfect temperature. The perfect temperature for the oil is about 360-365 degrees F. They will burn if the oil is too hot and be raw inside.
- The best tip I have is to do a small test batch to see if you need to adjust the temperature. When you find it try and keep the oil at that heat level. If your frying in a pot or pan use a candy thermometer that will clip on the inside of the pan and register the temperature and then you can easily adjust the flame as needed.
I am as guilty as my Italian family, and eyeballed it a bit. I guess I’m a little old fashioned that way. When it comes to deep frying, I still use a deep pan filled with oil. I don’t deep fry all that often so I stick with this method. One day I may bite the bullet and invest in a good deep fryer.
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I like to use a small COOKIE SCOOP like the one below when making the zeppole – they are all the same size and it’s less messy. Another item that I recommend when making these is a DEEP FRY THERMOMETER that clips to side of your pot to make sure the temperature of oil is just right.
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Italian Ricotta Doughnuts
Test one to start and adjust temperature of oil if needed