Introduction: Zippy Zeppoles - Italian Fried Doughnuts
Mama mia! Mama would cringe if zeppoles were made this way.
Zeppoles are pieces of sweet fried dough that are coated with powdered sugar. They are a staple of street vendors at outdoor fairs and a favorite although the prices have gone through the roof for what you get. They are similar to beignets but you would probably pair this with a nice shot of espresso for dessert.
Not for the calorie conscious.
Step 1: Semi-homemade...
You can look up the recipe to make this from scratch but we will use a store-bought pancake mix.
Just like a bag of cement, no more drudgery in getting the right amount of binder, aggregate, and fines all conveniently packaged for you to just add water.
You will also need some breadmaking yeast.
A bit of vanilla flavoring, extract or you can steep your own vanilla bean if you want.
A frying pan or pot full of hot oil for frying.
CAUTION: Manipulating a camera, two spoons, a big bowl of batter, a smoking cauldron of boiling oil, and an open flame should be tried...at least once. Be safe.
Step 2: The Proof Is in The...
You need to "proof" your yeast to make sure you can get it out of hibernation.
Use a cup or small bowl and put in about a 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.
Add a spoonful or two of yeast (yeah, I'm still working on using up that giant bag of yeast I got from the warehouse club grocery store, it actually may be a year or two since I keep it in the fridge). No need to be exact here.
Add a few spoons of sugar or flour (this is the food for the yeast to start on)
Mix thoroughly and put it aside for about a half an hour.
Your microorganism colony will grow by leaps and bounds. It gives off carbon dioxide gas and will result in a foamy head on top of the liquid. The fermentation process is also how alcohol is made.
If your yeast doesn't "proof", open up a new pouch of yeast and start over.
Step 3: Mix It Up...
I used about two cups of pancake mix in a big bowl.
Pancake mix already contains the eggs, flour, sugar, salt and some leavening agents such as baking powder that will also help it rise. The zeppole is a product that depends on the yeast creating airy pockets and to develop that chewy breadlike structure. This zeppole lacks a little of the chewiness that higher gluten bread flours will make. I'm guessing the pancake mix was more "cake" flour.
Add a dash of vanilla extract (Note the big bottle here, yup, don't know when I'll ever run out of this either.)
Add the proofed yeast to the pancake mix.
Mix well. Mixing also helps to chain the gluten molecules together so you are kneading by stirring.
You should get a wet sloppy dough but not soupy.
Cover and let the yeast do it's magic for about 45 minutes.
When it has risen a bit, you can stir and let rise some more.
Step 4: Hush Puppies...
Bring your hot oil up to temperature, about 350 degrees F or a little lower.
The high sugar content in the zeppole will cause it to brown faster but you still need it to cook through.
Grab two spoons to create blobs to gently slide into the hot oil.
Scrape out a spoonful from the bowl.
Use the other spoon to scrape the dough cleanly from the spoon.
Give them plenty of room to expand and not to stick to each other.
Depending on the level of oil you have in the pan or pot, you will need to flip the zeppole over when it is browned on one side.
Cook through until the other side is browned as well.
Step 5: Powder and Makeup...
When cooked, take the zeppoles out and drain excess oil on paper towels.
After they have been cooled to the touch, get a paper bag ready.
Put in a couple of spoons of confectioners sugar. This is the extra fine powdered sugar used for dusting doughnuts and such.
Throw the zeppoles in the bag of confectioners sugar.
Shake around gently to coat the zeppoles with sugar.
Mine were still a little warm so they melted the sugar into a sticky glaze in some parts.
Eat right out of the bag or place on serving plate.