The donuts of San Giuseppe (Zeppola) are a typical dessert of the south of Italy and belong to the family of pancakes. It seems that over the centuries have undergone a transformation. The recipe of the classical zeppola is very simple and does not require the use of eggs, nor fat nor yeast. It is probably the same recipe used by Joseph when Virgin Mary and Jesus was in Egypt and had to sell pancakes to support his family. It seems that the name derives from this fact.
The recipe for the classic donut, that was suggested even by Ippolito Cavalcanti Duke of Buonvicino (IX century), is to use a few ingredients: flour, water, a bit ‘of aniseed liqueur, Marsala or white wine, salt, sugar and cooking oil.
The most modern version, which is the one most used today, it foresees instead the use of pâte à choux.
This dough is miraculous for its versatility, we find its origins even in VI century: it is the creation of an Italian pastry chef in Paris in the wake of Catherine de ‘Medici and is used for various preparations.
The same dough, if cooked in boiling water, becomes the Parisian gnocchi or quenelles; in the oven, the choux pastries, éclairs, Saint-Honore, Paris-Brest, salambos, profiteroles and savory gourgéres and talmouses; in hot oil: dauphine potatoes potatoes lorette, the curler cheese, the curler Pignatelli, and pets de nonne (that is better not to translate), a sort of sugary curler soufflés and, finally our donuts St. Joseph.

Original name: Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Origin: Italy

Ingredients (for 30 donuts)

For Dough
300 grams of flour
80 g butter
6 eggs
250 ml of water
a pinch of salt
corn oil to fry (olio di mais)

For Cream
500 ml milk
125 gr of sugar
4 egg yolks
50 grams of flour
1/2 vanilla bean or a bit of lemon zest (yellow part only)

For Seal
Cherries in syrup
Powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa by mixing a small amount of cream to complete the seal with a dollop of chocolate cream


In a pot melt the butter and salt in the water. Bring almost to a boil and pour the flour, stirring vigorously to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until the dough comes away from the wall of the pot. Allow the mixture to cool and then join an egg, stirring gently until it is completely absorbed; add the second egg following the same procedure, then the third and so on. It is difficult to determine a priori the number of eggs, since there are too many variables, including the quality of the flour, the size of the eggs and the degree of humidity of the dough. You will know when to stop adding eggs when the dough will have difficulty absorbing. For perfectionists will say that you will be able to put more eggs in the dough and this will rise more, and a system to increase the number of eggs is to dry much dough, keeping it on the heat and continue stirring for some time after that It will be removed from the wall of the pot.

In a pot, bring to a boil the milk with the vanilla or lemon zest. Leave to infuse for a few minutes and then remove the vanilla or lemon. Mix sugar with flour. Put the yolks in a bowl, beat them well with a whisk, pour a little warm milk into the yolks. Then, a bit at a time, stir continuously the egg yolks in the mixture of sugar and flour. Stir until mixture is smooth, then incorporate, stirring constantly, the rest of the hot milk. Pour all into the pot and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly because it will tend to stick on the bottom of the container. Boil until the cream thickens.

Frying and sealing donuts
Cut pieces of oven paper in a square shape 10×10 cm. With a pastry syringe with a wide mouth create donuts on the parchment paper. Throw a donut at a time along with the oven paper in plenty of oil, which should be hot but not smoking, as it would prevent the raising of the dough. Increase heat to brown them, drain and place them on paper towels. To streamline the work it would be ideal to have two pots with different heat oil and move the donuts in the hotter oil after that it raises enough in the less hot one. When they have cooled, place in the center a little ‘cream, garnish with cherries in syrup and sprinkle with powdered sugar. This is the version of Puglia and Naples, while in Salento instead of cherries you put a little ‘chocolate cream and sugar (granulated, in this case, and before you put the cream).