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Zeppole: Italian Doughnuts

I am actually quite surprised when I meet someone that does not know what a Zeppole is.  I understand that not everyone is Italian, and maybe it is just an East Coast thing, but I cannot imagine going to a fair, feast, oktoberfest, carnival, or anything like it and not seeing a bunch of balls of dough frying in a large pan of hot oil.  Sounds like a coronary nightmare, and it probably is, but these have to be the most delicious things in the world.  The best way I can describe it, is the middle of the doughnut only larger (unlike soft Dunkin Donut Munchkins) zeppole are chewy, thicker, and a lot greasier.  Zeppole are best hot, and served with confection or powdered sugar sprinkled over them.  They  usually put them in a paper bag, throw in a quarter to half a cup of confection sugar (shown top left).  Another way to describe them is as hot pizza crust, only chewier and sweeter... on the one hand I want to tell you that you MUST try them, on the other, in good concious, I must tell you to forget it, because you will become addicted quickly.  I NEVER make them at home (ok, maybe once), but I usually wait for them to show up at the mentioned fairs, feasts, carnivals, etc., because a few of time a year is more than enough, and probably too much of this sweet, doughy delicacy.

Many people will make their own dough, but in all honesty, as much as I love making things from scratch and being traditional, this is one thing that is best left to the experts, so I buy it frozen in the supermarkets, or fresh and risen from pizzarias in town.  Once you buy that, the rest is easy:

Tear off balls of dough the size of a walnut, but not bigger than a golf ball and throw into a pan or wok with at least 3" (60mm) of hot oil.  Keep cooking and rotating the balls of dough with a wooden spoon or stick (like they use at the fairs) until it is golden brown, not pale gold, but dark golden brown.  

One last word about Zeppoli (Zeppole is one, Zeppoli is many) before the Surgeon General comes after me:  I personally cannot eat more than 2 at a sitting, if you buy the "6 for $3" (as it was at the last feast I was at), be sure to share them with a friend or two.  If you let them go cold, put them in a paper bag, then reheat them in the oven, they will be a little bit more chewier, but just as delicious.


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