Thursday, May 31, 2012

"National Doughnut Day" & A "Whipped Cream Zeppole" Recipe

Let’s celebrate! Friday, June 1st is “National Doughnut Day!” Who knew that this incredible, edible, sweet, and torus-shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried would be one of our nation’s favorite foods? The doughnut or aka “donut” was first served to the soldiers by the Salvation Army during World War I. National Doughnut Day started in 1938 as a fund raiser for Chicago’s Salvation Army. The goal of this day was to help the needy during the Great Depression, and to honor the “Lassies” of the Salvation Army.

Soon after the US entered into World War I, The Salvation Army concluded that the needs of the US soldiers could be met by creating “huts”. These huts were canteens or social centers that would serve baked goods, provide supplies such as stamps, writing supplies, and a clothes mending service. They had six staff members per hut which included four female volunteers who could “mother” the boys. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from these “huts”, two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. This idea became an instant hit and soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts. Margaret Sheldon wrote one busy day, “today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, and 700 cups of coffee.” As the legend spread of the provision of doughnuts to US soldiers, the term “doughboy” was created to describe the US infantry. Today, National Doughnut Day is still used as a fund raiser run by the Salvation Army. So be sure to check out your local donut shop and other bakeries across the nation, they are sure to be celebrating. We have to thank Margaret and Helen for helping out our soldiers and giving them something so deliciously sweet to eat. 

Now, instead of an American donut method, I thought I would share an Italian donut recipe which is what I call a Zeppoli. (Zeppole is one and zeppoli is many) They also can be called Sfinge or Crispellis. I can’t imagine going to a feast or a carnival and not getting a bag of hot fried dough balls covered in powdered sugar. Also you can find them around the feast of St. Joseph. I know this sounds like a health hazard, which it probably is, but they are the most delicious dough balls ever. I would think that everyone has had a few in their lifetime, but if you haven’t had one I will try to explain what they taste like. They are like the middle of a doughnut, only bigger. They are chewy, sweet, and a lot greasier than a regular donut. You should have them hot, right from the oil served with confectioners sugar (powdered) sprinkled all over them. I have to tell you to try them, but I should say do not, due to the fact that they are so good and addicting.

Zeppole originated in Italy and is known in many Italian American communities in the United States as well. They can also be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream, whipped cream, candied fruits, chocolate pudding, and also filled with ricotta mixed with small pieces of chocolate chips. The custom was popularized in the early 19th century by the Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro. The terms zeppole and sfinge also are used to refer to baked cream puffs made with choux pastry. Zeppoli can also be savory, and consist of fried bread dough often filled with anchovies. In parts of Calabria, Italy, (my mom’s family is from there) the anchovies are consumed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In Malta, anchovy zeppoli are traditionally consumed during the Lent fasting period.

To honor National Doughnut Day, I am sharing my version of an Italian donut called “Whipped Cream Zeppole.” This recipe is taken from Mary Ann Esposito (Ciao Italia). She filled hers with a Ricotta filling but I am using whipped cream instead.

Whipped Cream Zeppole

2 cups of water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
2 cups unbleached flour
6 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
Whipped cream
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Powdered sugar (optional)
Maraschino Cherries (optional)

Bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. When boiling, add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed, for about 1 minute. Take off fire. Put into mixing bowl and cool for 10 minutes, so the eggs will not curdle. Mixing at a low speed add 1 egg at a time allowing each egg to blend. Put dough into a pastry bag. (a star tip) Cut 12 pieces of waxed paper into 3-inch squares and lightly dust with flour. Pipe a doughnut shape onto each piece of paper.

Heat oil to 350° F. Carefully slide batter off the wax paper into the oil. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes turning every couple of minutes. Doughnuts should double in size. Allow to cool on absorbent or brown paper. When cooled slice horizontally.

Mix the chocolate chips into the whipped cream. Put cream into a pastry bag and fill around the zeppole. Press the top of the pastry onto the bottom. Sprinkle with powered sugar and place a cherry on top of each pastry. Enjoy!

Till Next Time……………..

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  1. These look so delicious! I am glad that they have the italian name because it would be a shame to tag them with the word donut. They are so much more than that. Wonderful
    recipe-glad you posted it. Enjoy the weekend!

  2. Thanks Tina, for your thoughtful comment. Believe me they are so good, you just can't have one. Have a great weekend as well!