Fried Dough – Zeppole

Jan 10th

Remember how I mentioned this week about our Seven Fish dinner? You’d think the star of the show would be the sauce full of seafood that simmers for hours: well not in my book. My cousins and I used to steal these from my Mom-mom, fresh from the oil, and tear into them with guilty grins. A few years ago my amazing Mom-mom passed away and when it came time to make the fried dough, I asked my mom if she had the recipe. Turns out my ever-practical grandmother used store-bought frozen bread dough! That would be the easier route, but what’s a holiday without undue work and stress? I set out to find a recipe.

Though we called this fried dough or “frits” (pronouced “freets”), I came across a recipe in my King Arthur Flour cookbook for “Zeppole”. Traditionally served sweet, the description suggested a savory alternative using anchovies. Gross. I figured I could try the dough but toss some kosher salt on top rather than powdered sugar. Three years running and I’ve perfected my own recipe using the base from the cookbook; I’m finally ready to share it with you.

Perfect for a Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner that I’m sure 3% of you celebrate (and then only once a year), I’ve been thinking of other ways to enjoy this deliciousness. First off, ANY Italian dish would be complemented with this instead of sliced bread. Second, if you can ever get your hands on some really good cheese (like an aged Parmigiana Reggiano), make these long hot peppers or this broccoli rabe along with the fried dough for the most WONDERFUL, nontraditional, kids-free dinner I can imagine (don’t forget a bottle of chianti). Lastly, make this as an appetizer and serve it with spicy marinara for dipping – you will blow everybody away.

Fried Dough – Zeppole

Makes 12-16 four inch pieces

1/2 c. lowfat milk

1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. water

3 c. all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 package rapid rise yeast

1 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. olive oil

2-3 c. oil/shortening for frying

Kosher or regular salt, for sprinkling

1. Heat milk over medium heat in a small saucepan until bubbles break the surface. Pour into liquid measuring cup and add water.

2. Combine milk/water, flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and olive oil in a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer).

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3. Stir until combined and then knead with dough hook (or by hand on a floured counter) until smooth, tacky, and elastic (this will take about 5 minutes in standing mixer on medium speed or 10 minutes by hand).

4. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat in oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature about 1 hour (or up to 36 hours in the fridge).

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5. When ready to fry, divide dough into two inch balls and stretch into about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inch wide disks.

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6. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or shortening over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer to check the temp, just test the oil with a small amount of dough. If it bubbles, it’s probably ready. 

7. Place disks into hot oil, about four at a time. Flip once the bottom is golden brown, using tongs for easiest handling. Cook until the second side is golden brown and remove to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately sprinkle with salt. Continue with the rest of the dough.

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Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

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