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St. Joseph's Day Cream Puffs (Zeppole)

Servings: Makes about 48 Zeppole
St. Joseph's Day is a Roman Catholic feast day commemorating the life of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Joseph's Day is celebrated on March 19th every year.

On this day, the feast of San Giuseppe, every Italian household makes its version of zeppole, or cream puffs. The cream puff shells can be made ahead and frozen, and the filling can be made a day before serving. The lard is what makes the recipe authentic, but you may use all butter.

2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups water
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
3 1/2 tablespoons lard (butter may be used, if desired)
6 large eggs

1/4 cup potato starch or cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Grease and flour a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Cream Puff Shells
Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water, add the butter and lard, and when melted, remove pan from the stove and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon, then return the pan to medium-high heat, beating the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon or hand mixer to blend each in well before adding the next egg.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain nozzle with some of the cream puff mixture. Squeeze out 1 1/4-inch puffs about 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake the cream puffs in preheated 425ºF (220ºC) oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. When done, carefully slit the side of each cream puff with a knife to allow steam to escape and prevent the puffs from becoming soggy inside. Transfer the cream puffs to cooling racks.

Cream Filling
In a small bowl, mix the potato starch (or cornstarch, if using) and sugar for the filling. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and butter over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Add the starch mixture and cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly add the eggs, beating well. Return the mixture to the heat for just a few seconds to cook the mixture, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Pour the filling into a bowl, add the almond extract, and blend. Cover with buttered waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

To Serve
Use a small knife to cut off the top third of each cream puff. Add about 2 teaspoons filling (more if the puffs are larger), replace the tops, and put puffs on a decorative platter. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve immediately.

Makes about 48 Zeppole.

Fill cream puffs with jam, chocolate cream filling, or ice cream. Drizzle chocolate sauce over the top and place a maraschino cherry over each Zeppoli, instead of confectioners' sugar.

Source: Nella Cucina by: Mary Ann Esposito
Publisher: Morrow Cookbooks; May 21, 1993

Date: March 19, 2004