Zeppole (ZEH-poh-lee)—“zeppelins,” after their fat, elongated shape—are a ubiquitous street food, especially during Italian-American fairs like the Feast of San Gennaro, which closes the streets of New York’s Little Italy while roulette wheels vie with parades of religious statues for attention from the crowds. You smell the sausage and onions sizzling on the grill, the vinegar peppers being stuffed into hero loaves, and the sweet zeppole cooking in the deep-fryers.
Frankly, many of the zeppole we’ve had at such festivals have been oily and heavy. Our recipe makes a crispy, light zeppole, not unlike a popover—which makes it much easier to eat half a dozen at a pop.
Makes about 18 zeppole
1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the butter, salt, and sugar with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and add all the flour at once. Stir vigorously to blend well. The mixture will form a dough. Return the pan to the burner, turn the heat to medium, and stir the dough for another minute. Remove from the heat.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the flour mixture, beating well with a hand-held mixer until incorporated.
3. In a medium-size saucepan or skillet, pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch, and heat it to 375°F. Take two teaspoons and dip them into the hot oil to coat. Then, with one spoon, scoop out a walnut-size piece of dough and carefully drop it into the hot oil, helping to scrape it off with the other spoon. Quickly repeat, dropping in more scoops of dough. Do not crowd the pan because the dough pieces will double or triple in size as they cook. Fry for about 6 minutes, until the zeppole have grown in size, cracked a bit, and are nicely browned. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining dough, keeping the oil at 375°F.
4. Mix the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon together and place in a sifter. Sift the cinnamon sugar over the zeppole. Serve them hot or warm. They cannot be made in advance.
Wine suggestion: Sweet Marsala