I must confess – I have an odd hobby. I like opening random pages in a dictionary to look up different words and their meanings. I find the pronunciation and etymology of words very fascinating. These days, however, I use the internet to look up meanings since I find the font in the dictionary very tiny. One such day I was browsing the internet and came across a site that had a list of Italian words and that is where I came across ‘zeppole.’ The word sounded fascinating! After that day, somehow I came across it in various other places – online, in the paper and also in a cookbook that I was browsing through at a used-bookshop in Bengaluru. Zeppole or sweet Italian doughnuts are a popular street food item in Italy. Although the process of making them is slightly tedious and time-consuming, the end-result is surely worth it.
I do not usually bake with all-purpose flour (refined white flour or maida) since it’s not very healthy. I always substitute it with whole-wheat flour wherever possible but I must admit, the texture of the final product differs slightly. I do indulge in using refined flour once a month. When I read the recipe for ‘zeppole’ in the cookbook, I felt it was best to try making it the first time with white flour just so I would know what the texture ought to be. None of the books in the recipe are vegan, but over the last couple of years I have learnt to adapt most recipes to turn them vegan and yet retain the taste, flavour and texture.
The original recipe makes use of milk and eggs. I have substituted regular milk with almond nut milk [recipe below] and cornflour sauce, instead of eggs. Depending on the quality of the all-purpose flour used, you may have to reduce or increase the quantity of milk by a few teaspoons in order to get a smooth, soft dough. Use your judgment while following the recipe.
Even with all my adaptations, this recipe has everything I normally wouldn't use - butter, deep-frying and all-purpose flour! It is an indulgence! And it disappears just like the name suggests – ZAP!!
Zeppoles – Sweet Italian Doughnuts Recipe yield: 26 (2 inches each)
Ingredients: 180 g almond milk [Soak about 15 almonds in warm water for half-an-hour. Peel and grind smooth. Add enough water to make about 180ml of ‘milk.’] 1 vanilla stick [If not available, use vanilla essence or a pinch of cinnamon powder] 1 tsp corn flour (for the sauce) 1/4 cup warm water, to dissolve yeast 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast:. 1 ½ tbsp butter (I use vegan butter) 2 tbsp sugar. ¾ tsp salt 425g all-purpose flour (keep 1/2 cup extra to add if needed) 25g corn flour (added to the all-purpose flour and mixed)
Vegetable oil for frying. Icing sugar for dusting. Dark Chocolate for topping if desired. [Melt with a teaspoon of coconut oil/vegan butter]
Dissolve the yeast in warm water and set aside until frothy.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon cornflour in 1 cup of almond milk. Split one vanilla stick horizontally. Scrape the seeds into the milk and heat it over low heat, stirring constantly until it turns into sauce that is of the same consistency as a lightly beaten egg. Add butter and sugar, and stir. Take it off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, stir the flour (mixed with cornflour) and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the frothy yeast mixture and the sauce. Add half-a-cup of the almond milk and bring the ingredients together by kneading gently to form soft, smooth and elastic dough.
Add more almond milk if dough feels stiff. Put the dough on a lightly-floured surface and knead well. It should be smooth and soft but should easily spring back when touched.
Grease a large bowl and place the dough inside it and leave it aside for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, line and grease two baking trays.
Turn out the risen dough (after waiting 40 minutes) on a floured work surface and push out the air gently. Then let it rest for a few minutes, about 10 minutes.
Then, roll out the dough into a long fat rope and pinch out small, lime-sized balls - about 25-28 approximately. If the dough still feels ‘tough’ and offers much resistance, let it rest for a few minutes. Excessively handling of the all-purpose flour can sometimes leads to this.
Roll each piece into a smooth ball, flatten very slightly and pinch a hole in the center with your thumb and index finger. I used a small doughnut mould to make even sized holes.
Cover the zeppoles on the greased trays with oiled cling-film and leave it aside for 40 minutes until plump. They will not exactly double in size, but the creases, if any, will ease out as they plump up. Heat oil in a wok or a wide saucepan; the oil should measure about 180 degrees Celsius. Since I do not own a candy thermometer, I simply heated to moderately hot and kept the temperature constant by reducing the heat and increasing it as and when required.
Add one or two zeppoles at a time and cook turning them over for an even golden colour. They will end up with blisters and look like toad skins if added in hot oil, so be careful.
Drain onto tissues. When all the zeppoles are ready, dust with powdered sugar.
You may put icing sugar in a paper bag and shake the zeppoles or just sieve some sugar over them like I did.
Alternately, you might like to serve with some melted chocolate as a topping. They taste best when warm and served with tea or coffee. We had them for breakfast and they were quite heavy - probably we all had one too many for they were very tasty!
These were not very sweet. I have a tendency to reduce sugar since I don’t like over-sweetened desserts. However, if you have a sweet tooth you might like to add another tablespoon of sugar.
Harini Prakash aka Sunshinemom, is an amateur vegan food writer and photographer who is always keen to learn more. She blogs at: TONGUE TICKLERS
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