St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of the family, is celebrated at the Spring equinox and his day is a feast of bread. At one time,
the Feast of San Giuseppe, as he is called in Italy, was an Italian national holiday. St. Joseph's feast day is still celebrated with
families gathering together to create enormous buffets for neighbors and friends. The table is said to overflow with an abundance
of food that the Father of the Holy Family provides. The centerpiece of St. Joseph's Day festivities is an alter laid with fine linens
and decorated with flowers and decorative breads. In America, the festival is like a giant potluck dinner, but the dishes served are
similar to those eaten in Italy and are always meatless - from fried croquettes of fish, sardines, calamari, and shrimp to pasta with
Italy, a highlight of the meal is the special sweets that are prepared. Although the names and shapes of these hot delicate fritters
differ from region to region, they are as much associated with St. Joseph's Day as turkey is to Thanksgiving. They are usually
called zeppole or frittelle; other names are cassatedde, sfinci, or bigne. The pastries may be fried or baked and are sometimes
based on flour.
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
To make the pastry:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a
boil. Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon, beat in flour all at once.
Return to low heat. Continue beating until mixture forms a ball and leaves
side of pan. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating hard
after each addition until smooth. Continue beating until dough is satiny and
breaks in strands. Allow the mixture to cool.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a large star tip. For each pastry,
pipe a 2-1/2 -inch spiral with a raised outer wall on the baking sheet. Bake
for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before
To make the filling:
Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. In a bowl, whisk together
milk and egg yolks Whisk milk mixture into sugar mixture. Place the
saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking
constantly. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in rum, orange zest,
and vanilla. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl. Place a piece of plastic
wrap directly on the surface. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then
refrigerate until cold. Fold in the whipped cream.
To assemble the zeppole:
Cut the pastries in half horizontally. Transfer the filling mixture to a pastry
bag with a star tip. Pipe some of the filling onto the cut side of the bottom
half of each pastry. Place the top half of the pastry on the filling.
Pipe a small amount of the filling into the hole in the center of each pastry.
Place a maraschino cherry in the middle. Dust the pastries with
One of the lesser known facts about St. Joseph
is his status as the patron saint of pastry
cooks. The Saint Joseph table usually
abounds with a variety of pastries in shapes
such as fruits and flowers and especially
anything symbolic of the Holy Family.