From Amalfi with Love… Mamma Agata’s Famous Christmas Zeppole Recipe
Zeppole di Mamma Agata, this recipe is a favourite treat in Mamma Agata’s home in Ravello, Italy on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Usually, these deep-fried dough balls can be filled with custard, jam, pastry cream, or a butter and honey mixture, and are almost always topped with powdered sugar. Mamma Agata makes her zeppole a little differently, with potato flour and cinnamon.
Traditionally, zeppole are found in Rome and Naples but can also be found in Southern Italy (Sicily, Sardinia, and also on Malta); they are also very popular with Italians in North America. They are most popular on St. Joseph’s Day in March, but in Mamma Agata’s household, zeppole are a Christmas Eve treat the whole family loves.
Take the time to make these for your friends and family – they are well worth the effort!
- Approximately 2 pounds potatoes
- 1⁄2 cup whole milk
- 10 1⁄2 tablespoons butter
- 3 1⁄2 tablespoons cake yeast (or substitute dry yeast)
- 2 1⁄4 pounds flour (Fine “00” or white pastry flour)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract/essence
- Finely grated zest of one lemon
- 6 eggs
- 1 quart peanut or vegetable oil for frying (note: do not use olive oil)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
PREPARATION OF THE ZEPPOLE
- Prepare all of your ingredients to be able to make the dough quickly, including the potatoes (below), sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, sea salt, vanilla, lemon zest and eggs.
- Put the butter and milk in a pan and set aside (to help the process go faster later).
- Crack all of the eggs into a bowl.
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft but not mushy. Remove the potatoes from the water and let them cool to the touch. Remove the skins from the potatoes and discard the skins. Set the potatoes aside. Mamma Agata’s Secret: Boil the potatoes with the skins on, starting in cold salted water and cooking for approximately 50 minutes. Letting the potatoes cool before peeling them enhances and preserves the flavor of the potatoes.
- On your workstation, create a circular mound of flour with a hole in the center.
- Add sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and vanilla to the flour.
- Add the lemon zest to the flour.
- Mix the ingredients together with your hands.
- Once again, create a hole in the center of the mound.
- Mash the meat of the potato with a potato masher or ricer and work the mashed potatoes into the flour mixture.
- Heat the milk and butter that we put in the pan earlier over low heat just until the butter is melted (not too hot—as too hot or too cold will kill the yeast).
- Once the butter is melted, immediately remove the pan from the heat and let it return to a little warmer than room temperature, so the butter does not re-solidify, but it is not too hot.
- Dissolve the cake yeast into the milk and butter mixture. Starting from the center of the mound, with your hand, stir in a circle, incorporating the melted butter, milk and cake yeast to the flour and mix.
- Add the eggs. Mix and knead the dough for at least five minutes. Lift the dough and let it fall onto the work- top a couple of times to create a nice soft consistency.
- Cut off a small amount of dough and roll it into long sausage-like, cylindrical shape, with a 1-inch diameter/width. Note: The width of the zeppole is what matters for frying. You may play with the length as desired. Create circles with the individual pieces by marrying the ends of the dough.
- Place the circles of dough on a floured tray and set aside in a nice, warm location (away from drafts and air conditioners. Allow the dough to rise for about 90 minutes before frying.
- Using a deep frying pan (about 3 to 4 inches and 10 inches across) with handle, add oil generously until it’s about 1 inch from top of pan. Oil should be very hot, at least 375° F before frying. The oil is ready if a small amount of the batter floats to the top and starts to really bubble.
- While the dough is frying, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Once the zeppole are golden brown on both sides, remove them from the oil and quickly drain any excess oil from the dough. Dip the zeppole in the cinnamon sugar mixture immediately so that they will absorb the flavors of the topping.
- Serve hot!
Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!
Carol Ketelson is the owner and operator of Delectable Destinations LLC. Dedicated to planning, co-ordinating and curating customized group tours to hand-picked destinations. As an experienced travel planner, Carol’s customized itineraries, specialized tours and off-the-beaten-path experiences create memorable journeys for her small groups of singles, couples, divorced, widowed and solo travelers seeking exceptional trips into the culture and cuisine of destinations around the world. Spring and Fall bookings invite travelers to taste delectable local cuisine, culturally rich traditions and mesmerizing sights. For over 10 years, Carol’s tours have captured the true essence of Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Spain, Ireland and India.
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