Sunday, February 23, 2020

Holy Zeppole!


When I was a child we lived near a very Italian neighborhood. I recall their annual fairs where we could enjoy a ferris wheel ride, carnival games and the smell of frying zeppole dusted in powdered sugar that seemed to be everywhere.

For Chanukah, when Jews traditionally eat fried food, my neighbor's daughter will usually show up at our door with a plate of fresh sfenj, the Moroccan equivalent of a zeppole. They are always fresh and tempting, but neither Lillie nor Rosie could partake b/c of the wheat and eggs (or so I thought). Then this past year, I came across a sfenj recipe with no eggs! I thought I discovered something new. After some research and discussion with me neighbor, I found that traditionally sfenj doesn't have eggs. So I reverse engineered the recipe to make a gluten and dairy free version and lo and behold they were lovely.  I felt the addition of seltzer water, citrus flavor gave the lift much needed in an egg free dough, but also the citrusy hint so common in Italian desserts.

What I discovered, in a very Proustian moment, was that my kitchen smelled like those long ago Italian fairs, and the sfenj was reminiscnet of zeppole in taste and appearance. Further digging found that would be the case.  The recipes were near identical, and the end product certainly so.

With Mardi Gras coming up this week, and fried goodies abounding, I'd like to share this recipe. For whatever religious holiday you observe, or non at all, these zeppole/sfenj/fried dough beauties are delightful for dessert or brunch. Check out the "How To" video on You Tube below.

You can substitute granulated sugar mixed with cinnamon for the powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate. A favorite restaurant dessert in the past few years is zeppole with several dipping sauces like raspberry, chocolate and caramel.

Gluten Free Vegan Zeppole (Sfenj)

¼ cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) powdered yeast
2 tablespoons granulated Sugar (up to a ¼ cup may be added for a sweeter dough)
3 cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend with xanthan Gum (such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-       to-1 GF Flour or King Arthur Brand)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups seltzer (plain or lemon or orange flavored)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Canola or favorite vegetable oil for frying (about a half-gallon)
Powdered Sugar (optional)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together with a fork warm water, yeast and sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until bubbles appear.

Add flour, salt, seltzer, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat on medium heat or mix with a large wooden spoon, or your hands, until very well combined.

Cover and set aside for 3 hours. They dough should about double in size.

Heat oil in a large pot or wok to 375 F degrees. Put a piece of carrot (optional) in heated oil to keep from over browning.   Scoop up batter with a soup spoon or 1/8 cup measure. Using another spoon, shape into a mound and transfer to oil. Fry about 4 sfenj at a time. Fry for about 3-4 minutes per side, until deep, golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack set on top of a cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes.  Toss in powdered sugar or drizzle with honey and serve.

Yield: About 12

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