Zeppole are a popular Italian pastry to celebrate St. Joseph's Day on March 19. Although the fried puffed ones were more popular in my family, the baked ones filled with a ricotta filling are absolutely delicious. In some parts of Italy, they’re called sfinge.
St. Joseph is credited with saving Sicily from a severe drought during the Middle Ages. When rain came at last, the Sicilians celebrated by preparing a lavish feast, starting an enduring tradition. St. Joseph’s Day celebrations always feature an array of sweets, because Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs!
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon Truvia or Splenda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound ricotta
1 tablespoon Jello Sugar Free Vanilla Instant Pudding mix powder
1/4 teaspoon Fiori de Sicilia (optional but necessary - if you are Italian you will recognize the flavor immediately! Until you get some, use 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Chopped dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Boil 1 cup water with the butter, salt and sweetener in a large saucepan. Add the flour all at once and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides without sticking. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Let cool.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. With a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the dough into 9 mounds leaving space in between as they expand. Bake for 5 minutes, reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 10 minutes more or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. (I keep mine in cooling oven with door ajar as humidity in Florida tends to un-crisp the pastries)
Beat the ricotta with the instant pudding powder, and extracts - fold in the chopped chocolate bits.
Split the pastries and hollow them out; fill and put the tops back on. Dust with a teaspoon of powdered sugar spooned into a fine wire strainer - tap, tap, tap. Fill just before serving!
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