I used to be terrified of deep fryers. I mean, I love deep fried food, who doesn’t? But being near a deep fryer made me antsy. I don’t exactly know why. I think it was a combination of a few little things. The biggest would be being burned by hot oil. I mean, if that got onto your skin, how do you get it off? What if the whole fryer just exploded and you were covered in hot oil? Terrifying. Secondly, oil stains last forever, no matter how many times they go through the wash, at least in my experience. And thirdly, I’m worried that if I get over my fear of deep fryers, I’ll become horribly fat from deep frying things at home.
That’s why I decided to make zeppole – to conquer my fear! Everything was going well until the moment right before I had to deep fry the dough balls. I had set everything up ahead of time – paper towels, baking sheet, nutella in the piping bag, icing sugar, sieve. All I had to do was drop a few of the dough balls I made into the oil. Instead, I had a little panic attack.
In my mind, I imagined dropping the balls into the oil, which would then spit and get in my eye. I would be blinded and try to rinse out my eye, then the oil would catch on fire and burn my apartment down. I know that all that is fairly….unreasonable, but it still made me freak out. Finally, I took a deep breath and delicately placed one single dough ball into the oil with gentleness reserved only for handling newborn babies. I was not blinded and my apartment did not burn down. On the contrary, the dough ball sunk to the bottom for a few seconds, then popped up to the surface and bubbled merrily along. I laughed out loud at my doughy conquest. I had overcome the dreaded deep fryer and lived to tell about it.
But, really, deep frying is actually very easy. This will be a problem because now I can deep fry whatever I so desire. Maybe you have a deep fryer fear! And you, too, can conquer it, especially when the rewards are these delicious little balls of bliss. I might go so far as to say that these are one of the best things I have ever made.
To make nice little round balls of dough, I lightly floured my fingers and pinched off a small bit of dough. I rolled it between my hands very gently to make a smooth, round ball. To help it keep its shape, I used a teaspoon to place the dough ball into the oil.
If you are a bit confused as to what zeppole are, they’re just Italian doughnuts! I’m not exactly sure what makes them Italian as opposed to regular doughnuts, but they taste relatively the same. For Canadians, they’re like an airier version of timbits.
I dusted the zeppole with powdered sugar, but they would be equally tasty if they were tossed in cinnamon sugar. If you have vanilla sugar lying around, I would also try that. Deep fried dough rolled in sugar, you can’t really go wrong with that.
Nutella Filled Zeppole with Dark Chocolate Sauce
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
2 cups plus 1/2 tablespoon bread flour
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon whole milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 179 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
8 oz. (226 g) dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
Nutella for filling
To start making the zeppole, combine the four, milk, sugar, yeast, salt, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until a dough begins to come together. Gradually add the butter, beating well after each addition until it is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and glossy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.
In the last fifteen minutes before the dough is finished rising, making the chocolate sauce. Combine the heavy cream and honey in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to just a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Whisk until it is completely smooth. Set aside.
In a deep, heavy pot or dutch oven, pour enough oil to reach a depth of one to one and a half inches. Attack a deep dry thermometer to the side and heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 325 degrees.
Using lightly flour fingers, pinch off small portions of dough and roll into smooth balls. Gently lower the dough balls into the oil using a teaspoon. Only fry about 4 to 5 dough balls at once. Cook the zeppole, turning them for even colour, until they are golden brown, about 4 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zeppole to papers towels. If you made your dough balls too big, the middle will still be doughy even though the outside is cooked. They may seem small before you fry them, but they puff up a fair bit.
Using a piping bag with a small tip, pipe nutella into the zeppole. There are not large air pockets in the zeppole, so you have to poke the piping tip around to create a small cavity before filling it up with nutella.
Dust with powdered sugar or roll in cinnamon sugar and serve immediately. Dip the zeppole in the sauce and enjoy!