St Joseph Pastries (Zeppole di San Giuseppe)

By 8 m read

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

St Joseph pastries, also known as Zeppole di San Giuseppe, are enjoyed every year on March 19th to celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph). They are a deliciously light Italian cream filled pastry that are either fried or baked.

 

This recipe is for zeppole al forno, or baked zeppole. The texture of the pastry is very similar to a light, airy doughnut, with crema pasticcera (Italian pastry cream), a dusting of powdered sugar, and a cherry on top. And since this is an Italian treat, you know it’s going to be good!

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

What are St Joseph Pastries?

St Joseph pastries are Italian cream puffs. There are actually many different names for zeppole: Bignè di San Giuseppe, St. Joseph’s Day cake, sfinge pastry, zeppole fritte (fried), and zeppole al forno (baked). Depending on the region of Italy, they’re not only called different names, but may also be made in different shapes and with varying fillings (including jelly, butter and honey, or cannoli-style cream).

 

Zeppole are enjoyed each year on March 19th in the Catholic religion to celebrate St. Joseph, the husband of Mary, the father of Jesus, and the patron saint of workers. The story says that back in the Middle Ages, St. Joseph saved Sicily from a famine, and in return the people prepared a feast for him, including candles, wine, and many baked goods (including zeppole!). It is celebrated every year during Lent (a period of abstinence), so the foods that are prepared are typically meatless. In Italy, it is also the celebration of Father’s Day.

 

How To Make Zeppole di San Giuseppe

To make St Joseph pastry, a choux pastry dough is used. Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, aka puff pastry, is used for many pastries. It has only 4 or 5 ingredients, no raising agent, and depends on the high moisture content to steam and rise the dough. The word choux translates to cabbage (the shape of the pastry when it’s piped look like small cabbages) and pâte means paste (because the dough is quite wet).

 

It may not be made in the usual way you’re used to making a dough, but it’s actually really easy and all you’ll need are a pot and a wooden spoon! And the cream filling is a crema pasticcera – which you’ve tasted many times in cream puffs, eclairs, doughnuts, and tarts – and is also made in just a few minutes on the stove.

 

The one piece of equipment that you may or may not have in your kitchen is a piping bag and tips. But that’s okay! While a star-shaped tip is needed to achieve the beautiful swirled design of the pastry and cream, you can always use a Ziplok bag with a small piece of the corner cut off to achieve a similar result.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Equipment Used

Sauce pot

Wooden spoon

Whisk

Piping bag with star tip (or Ziplok bag with the corner cut off)

Baking sheet

Silicone mat or parchment paper

Plastic wrap

 

Zeppole di San Giuseppe Ingredients

Choux Pastry

1/2 c butter

1/2 c granulated sugar

1 c water

1 c all-purpose flour

4 extra-large eggs

Crema Pasticcera

4 egg yolks

2 c whole milk

1/2 c granulated sugar

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla extract

Lemon zest from 1 lemon

Additional Toppings

Confectioners sugar

Pitted cherries (either sour or maraschino)

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream)

In a pot over low heat, warm up the milk and vanilla until it starts to steam.

 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the cornstarch and whisk again until smooth.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Once the milk has warmed up, add about 1/2 c of the milk to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. This will temper the eggs, so you don’t wind up with scrambled eggs.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Increase the heat on the stove to low-medium and add the egg mixture and lemon zest to the milk, whisking continuously. After a few minutes, the crema pasticcera will thicken up to a thick custard-like consistency.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and let cool on the counter for a few minutes. Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, cover it with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the cream. This will prevent it from forming a crust. Place in the refrigerator to cool further.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Choux Pastry Dough

Preheat oven to 400°F.

 

In a pot over medium heat, bring butter, sugar, and water to a rolling boil. Next, add all of the flour at once and vigorously stir until it forms a ball.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Remove pot from the heat and add eggs one at a time then stirring until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. By the third or fourth egg, you may want to switch to a whisk. Whisk until it reaches a consistency like a thick icing (not like a bread dough at all!). Let cool a few minutes.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Prepare a baking sheet lined with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.

 

Place pastry dough in a piping bag with a star tip (or a Ziplok bag with a small piece of corner cut off). Pipe dough into circles measuring about 4 inches in diameter, working from the inside out, then make a second layer on top of the first, but leave a hole in the center of the second layer (this is where the pastry cream will be added later).

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough turns a light golden brown. When lightly pressed with a finger, the zeppole will have slightly spongy feel, like a doughnut. Let cool on the counter.

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Once the zeppole have cooled, remove the crema pasticcera from the fridge and place in a piping bag with a star tip (or a Ziplok bag with a small piece of corner cut off). Pipe the cream into the center of each zeppole and continue around, making a circle of cream, then back to the middle for a tall center. Make sure to leave a few inches between each one, as they will puff up a bit while baking.

 

Lightly dust with powdered sugar and top with a cherry.

 

Zeppole di San Giuseppe are best enjoyed the same day. Although they are still quite delicious on the second day (we tested this by having them for breakfast the next day!).

St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Looking for more delicious sweet treats? Check out a few more of our recipes now:

 

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St Joseph Pastries Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

St Joseph Pastries (Zeppole di San Giuseppe)

St. Joseph pastries, also known as Zeppole di San Giuseppe, are enjoyed every year on March 19th to celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph). They are a deliciously light Italian cream filled pastry. This recipe is for zeppole al forno, or baked zeppole.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Choux Pastry

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 extra-large eggs

Crema Pasticcera

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Lemon zest from 1 lemon

Additional Toppings

  • Confectioners sugar
  • Pitted cherries (either sour or maraschino)

Instructions
 

Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream)

  • In a pot over low heat, warm up the milk and vanilla until it starts to steam.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the cornstarch and whisk again until smooth.
  • Once the milk has warmed up, add about 1/2 c of the milk to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. This will temper the eggs, so you don’t wind up with scrambled eggs.
  • Increase the heat on the stove to low-medium and add the egg mixture and lemon zest to the milk, whisking continuously. After a few minutes, the crema pasticcera will thicken up to a thick custard-like consistency.
  • Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and let cool on the counter for a few minutes.
  • Once the bowl is cool enough to handle, cover it with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the cream. This will prevent it from forming a crust. Place in the refrigerator to cool further.

Choux Pastry Dough

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • In a pot over medium heat, bring butter, sugar, and water to a rolling boil.
  • Next, add all of the flour at once and vigorously stir until it forms a ball.
  • Remove pot from the heat and add eggs one at a time then stirring until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. By the third or fourth egg, you may want to switch to a whisk. Whisk until it reaches a consistency like a thick icing (not like a bread dough at all!).
  • Let cool a few minutes.
  • Prepare a baking sheet lined with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  • Place pastry dough in a piping bag with a star tip (or a Ziplok bag with a small piece of corner cut off).
  • Pipe dough into circles measuring about 4 inches in diameter, working from the inside out, then make a second layer on top of the first, but leave a hole in the center of the second layer (this is where the pastry cream will be added later). Make sure to leave a few inches between each one, as they will puff up a bit while baking.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough turns a light golden brown. When lightly pressed with a finger, the zeppole will have slightly spongy feel, like a doughnut.
  • Let cool on the counter.

Putting It All Together

  • Once the zeppole have cooled, remove the crema pasticcera from the fridge and place in a piping bag with a star tip (or a Ziplok bag with a small piece of corner cut off).
  • Pipe the cream into the center of each zeppole and continue around, making a circle of cream, then back to the middle for a tall center.
  • Lightly dust with powdered sugar and top with a cherry.

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