Father’s Day Cookies: St. Joseph’s Pants (Cavazune)

St. Joseph's Pants, Cavazune
St. Joseph’s Pants, Cavazune with a ceci, walnut, raisin, honey & orange zest filling

Father’s Day is next Sunday, June 15. I’ve been thinking about my Dad with love and gratitude. Though he passed long ago he is still with me.

Dad immigrated to America early in the last century. He did not have an easy life but he prevailed.

He was a very smart and honest man. He spoke several languages. He taught himself to play a mean mandolin. He wanted to be a lawyer but ended up being a butcher in Newark’s First Ward.

While my Dad’s ambitions were never fully realized he ensured that his children achieved their dreams. His oldest daughter was the first in the family to attend college. Both daughters became teachers. His oldest son earned a mechanical engineering degree and served as an Air Force pilot. I became the lawyer he wanted to be.

My Dad loved and supported us all.  He joyfully celebrated our every success. In his later years “Pops,” as his grandkids called him, was most fulfilled when his 11 grandchildren surrounded him. I cherish the memories of our 3-generation family gatherings around his table. Many of the dishes I cook today are from those happy days long ago.

In Italy Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, who helped raise Jesus. I’m blending the Italian and American holidays together.

Cavazune, or St. Joseph’s Pants, are a traditional filled cookie made for St. Joseph’s Day all over Italy. Ron, a fan, asked that I make cavazune. His family hails from Balzano in northern Italy about 2 1/2 hours northwest of Venice. Ron tells me they made huge batches of these cookies for their St. Joseph’s Day celebration to share with family and friends. Mille grazie for your suggestion Ron.

There are many variations of this cookie throughout Italia. Ron shared a description of his family’s cookie. I used his memories as the basis for this recipe.

The cookie is filled with a mince of ceci (chickpeas or garbanzo), raisins and walnuts sweetened with honey and balsamic then fried. Mosto cotto, a sweet, thick cooked wine is traditionally used. I didn’t have any so I substituted a thick, sweet balsamic vinegar. If you have mosto cotto in your pantry use that instead.

These cookies are light as air. The delicate crispy wrapper holds a sweet ceci paste flecked with crunchy walnut bits and raisins all sweetened with California Wildflower honey. The spices and orange zest linger on my tongue after the last bite reminding me to have another one.

Happy Father’s Day! Buon appetito!

Father's Day St. Joseph's Pants (Cavazune)
 
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Author:
Serves: 30 cookies
Ingredients
Pastry Dough
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ cup water
Pastry Filling
  • 1 can of chickpeas (19 oz.)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup ground walnuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Canola or your favorite vegetable oil for deep frying
Instructions
Dough
  1. Put all the ingredients except the water in the bowl of a food processor and process adding the water a little at a time until a dough ball forms.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a board and knead briefly. The dough will be on the stiff side. If the dough is too wet add more flour.
  3. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in clear plastic and let the dough rest at room temperature for about an hour.
Filling
  1. Chop the walnuts or process them in a food processor and set aside.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a pot covered with water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes to soften the chickpeas.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and set them aside to cool. Put them in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are to create a smooth mash.
  4. In a large bowl combine the chickpeas, walnuts, raisins, honey, cinnamon, orange zest and balsamic and set the filling aside.
  5. Cut the rested dough into six pieces.
  6. Roll each out to a thin rectangle about 12 inches by 6 inches or pass each piece through pasta machine ending with the smallest setting.
  7. Cut the rolled out dough in 3 inch circles.
  8. Put about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle, wet the edge with water and fold over the dough to form a half-moon.
  9. Press the sides of each pastry pocket with a fork to seal them. Set them aside on a kitchen towel.
  10. Put the canola oil in a pot to a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil to 375 degrees.
  11. Fry the cavazune in the hot oil until they are golden on both sides.
  12. Cool.
  13. Sprinkle with confectionery sugar and serve at room temperature.

 

Cannoli Siciliani: Crispy Tubes Filled with Sweet Creamy Ricotta

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Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.
Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.

Often at the end of a special meal growing up in Jersey Italian pastries would cap off the day’s celebration.

I’d visit Ferrara’s Pastry on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark and buy a dozen and a half of my family’s favorites. Sfogliatelle, baba, Cannoli, Neapoleans, eclairs. After Ferrara’s closed Calandra’s Bakery near the Water Tower and Dicky Dee’s fried hot dog joint further down Bloomfield Avenue became my go to place.

Here in San Francisco’s North Beach my favorite cannoli (little tubes) is Santo’s at Cavalli Cafe on Stockton. He fills them when you order one and drizzles the ends with his fresh orange syrup. He has regular size and minis. I always get the regular.

But I like my homemade cannoli too. They’re fun to make and really not that difficult. You can make the shells ahead and fill them just before serving.

My shells are crispy with blisters all over so be careful, they’ll shatter as you bite into the sweet, creamy ricotta filling studded with candied orange and chocolate chips.

If you don’t want to make your own shells you can buy the shells. I got a box of Ferrara’s shells at North Beach’s Molinari Deli on Columbus. Whip up your own ricotta filling and fill the shells just before serving so they stay don’t get soggy.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe is a Neapolitan pastry I love too. Check out my zeppole video episode and make some for yourself.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cannoli
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Shells
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • canola or your favorite vegetable oil for frying
Filling
  • 4 cups ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • ¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel (or lemon peel or candied citron)
Instructions
Shells
  1. Mix the flour, sugar and sea salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter.
  2. Add the yolks. Stir in the wine a little at a time until a dough forms. (Use more wine or water if the dough is too dry.)
  3. Knead the dough briefly on a well-floured board.
  4. Roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness, or run it through a pasta machine.
  5. Cut the dough in 4-inch circles. Wrap the circles around cannoli forms. (Buy the forms on Amazon and many retail stores.)
  6. Wet the overlapping edge and pinch the ends together. Flare out the ends.
  7. Heat the oil in a pot to 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil stay at this temperature. Fry the shells in the oil until lightly brown all over.
  8. Drain the shells on paper towel.
Filling
  1. With a wire whisk blend the ricotta with the powdered sugar until very smooth.
  2. Add the vanilla, candied fruit and chocolate and mix well into the ricotta and chill.
Assembly
  1. Fill the cannoli shells with the filling just before serving so the shells stay crispy. Piping the filling with a pastry bag works well or use a spoon to fill the cannoli from both ends.
  2. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

Torta di Riso: Sweet Orange-Scented Rice Cake

Torta di Riso

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Torta di riso for Lent, by Gianni.tv
Torta di riso is the perfect thing to eat just before giving up sweets for Lent.

As a kid I pigged out this time of the year. I knew I’d have to give up stuff for Lent and usually that included a favorite sweet.

So if chocolate was on the 40-day “don’t do” list I ate as much chocolate as I could during the run-up to Ash Wednesday.

If you observe Lent and you’re giving up sweets you gotta make this special rice cake right away. You only have 4 days before Lent starts.

It really doesn’t take much effort to make and you get a huge payoff that will hold you over until Easter.

Just boil the rice in milk flavored with a vanilla bean, lemon and orange zest. When the rice is cool mix in raisins, orange zest and egg yolks spiked with orange liqueur. Then fold in fluffy beaten egg whites pour it into a baking pan and stick it in the oven. How easy is that?

The orange and vanilla bean scented arborio rice is tender, light and moist. The plump raisins add a touch of sweetness and the orange zest a fresh perky note. The golden crustless edge is an extra tasty treat. A dollop of whipped cream finishes the cake in style.

If you love rice pudding this cake will take you to a whole new level of ecstasy.

Rice cake is even better the next day so make sure you make enough. That way you’ll be sure to satisfy your craving and have a leg up on making it through Lent.

I usually didn’t. I cheated.

If you do make it all the way through be sure to watch me make my classic Neapolitan Easter treat, pastiera so you’ll be ready when Easter rolls around and your fast finally ends.

Buon appetito!

Torta di Riso: Sweet Rice Cake
 
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An easy sweet rice cake flavored with vanilla bean and the zest of orange and lemon.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1½ cup arborio rice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, just strips of the peel
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 orange, just the zest
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • butter and flour for the baking pan
  • powdered sugar
  • whipped cream
Instructions
  1. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform cake pan.
  2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
  3. Put the milk, the vanilla seeds, sugar and lemon peel in a pot over medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar and slowly bring the milk to a rapid simmer.
  4. When the milk forms little bubbles around the edge of the pot add the rice, stir so the rice doesn't stick, cover and simmer about 40 minutes or until the rice is tender stirring occasionally.
  5. Put the cooked rice in a bowl to cool. Remove the lemon peel.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Separate the eggs.
  8. Beat the yolks with the orange liqueur.
  9. Whip the whites to a stiff peak.
  10. When the rice is cool zest about ¾ of the orange peel into the bowl, add the yolks and raisins and mix well.
  11. Add the whites and fold gently into the rice mixture.
  12. Pour the rice batter into a springform pan and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry, about 60 minutes.
  13. Let the rice cake cool for about 10 minutes then take it out of the pan.
  14. Shower the top of the cake with powdered sugar and a sprinkle the rest of the orange zest on top.
  15. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.

 

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding
Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a buttery bread studded with raisins and candied orange, lemon and citron peel.

Italians, especially in the north, love to eat panettone at Christmas and New Year.

Dunk panettone in your morning espresso or cappuccino. Panettone for dessert pairs well with a glass of vin santo or marsala. Leftover panettone is ideal for bread pudding or even french toast.

I didn’t have any panettone this holiday season but I couldn’t pass up buying one last week at a post-holiday 50% discount. After a few days I had my fill so I decided to use it up and made panettone bread pudding.

Bread pudding takes about 10 minutes of actual work to make. The rest of the time is just waiting for the panettone cubes to toast, then to absorb the custard mixture and bake in the oven. It’s an easy recipe with a big payoff.

My bread pudding has a rich and creamy interior with a golden, crunchy top. The buttery flavor sparkles with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. A little dark rum in the custard deepens the flavor. I had to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream to balance everything out.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Panettone Bread Pudding
 
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Panettone bread pudding is easy to make with a creamy, sweet interior and a golden, crunchy top.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 Panettone (1 pound loaf) cut into cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 for the egg custard and 1 for whipping
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or ameretto
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven until they lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Put the eggs, 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla, sugar and rum in a bowl large enough to hold the toasted panettone cubes.
  5. Beat the mixture well and add the panettone cubes and mix well. (You may need to push down on the cubes to ensure they all absorb the egg custard mixture.)
  6. Let the panettone cubes sit in the bowl to give them time to absorb all of the custard, about 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour in the panettone cubes and spread them evenly in the pan.
  8. Bake the bread pudding in the oven until the custard is cooked through and the top has browned, about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove the bread pudding and set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the remaining cup of heavy cream to soft, stiff peaks.
  11. Place a square of the bread pudding on a plate and top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving.

 

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)

Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar
Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar

Frying is an important Neapolitan cooking technique practiced by generations of southern Italian-Americans.

One of my fans wrote that he continues his wife’s grandmother’s Christmas tradition by making savory fried fritters with an anchovy filet in the middle for the family to enjoy every year. I was inspired to fry up some.

Savory or sweet, I ate a lot of these fried dough balls growing up in Jersey. We’d crowd around the stove as my Mom pulled the golden orbs out of the frying pot to drain on a big brown paper bag and grabbed one as soon as she set them down. I get some anytime I’m on the east coast and I make them often in my kitchen.

Besides their proper name, pasta cresciuta, southern Italian-Americans in Jersey call these fried fritters zeppole. The fried dough is omnipresent at Italian street fairs dusted with powdered sugar.

In Rhode Island they dust them with powdered sugar and call them doughboys. Mix fresh chopped clams into the risen batter and Rhode Islanders call them clamcakes. When I’m in Point Judith I devour Iggy’s clamcakes with a bowl of chowder and finish the meal with a couple of doughboys for dessert.

I love frying and I’ve been doing a lot of it over the holidays. Frying is a quick cooking method that requires your full attention and you’ll get better at it over time. Just be patient and make sure that the oil in your frying pot is always at 375 degrees.

I like both savory and sweet pasta cresciuta. On the savory side, I enjoy mixing in chopped anchovies, chopped squash blossoms or chopped fresh clams after the batter rises. On the sweet side, I just fry up the fritters and shower them with confectioner’s sugar. The irregular golden fritters have a crispy exterior and are light and airy inside.

Pasta cresciuta should be eaten hot out of the oil, as soon as they drain a bit. The fritters don’t hold up well and are not not as tasty when reheated.

These fried yeast fritters are very different from sweet custard filled zeppole enjoyed in Campania, the region around Naples. Watch me make zeppole di San Giuseppe where I fry some and bake some.

But be forewarned, the cooked dough in the zeppole di San Giuseppe episode is not the same as the batter I use in this recipe. The one I use here is an uncooked batter that resembles a very loose or wet pizza dough.

Here are a couple of my other favorites that I fried up this holiday season, struffoli and calamari, one sweet and one savory.

Happy frying. Buon appetito!

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2½ teaspoons yeast (one package)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • Safflower or your favorite frying oil
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, using a fork or whisk dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of warm water (about 100 degrees), mix in a ½ cup of flour and let it stand for about 15 minutes until it starts to bubble up.
  2. Add the remaining 1½ cup of warm water and the salt and mix well.
  3. Add ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  4. When the flour is well incorporated add another ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the last ½ cup of flour a little at the time and mix well. You may not have to use it all. You want to end up with a soft, smooth dough that is on the wet side and very elastic.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour until the batter is bubbling and double in volume.
  7. (If your making savory fritters, add chopped fresh clams, chopped anchovy or chopped squash blossoms to the bowl and mix them well into the batter.)
  8. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep wide pot or cast iron skillet to 375 degrees. (I use a candy thermometer hung on the side of the pot to ensure the oil stays at 375 degrees while frying.)
  9. Drop an overflowing tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil. Add more tablespoons of batter to the oil but don't overcrowd the pot.
  10. Move the fritters around so they have plenty of room to fry.
  11. When the bottom side of the fritters frying on top of the oil start to turn golden, flip them over and fry the other side.
  12. When the fitters are golden all over drain the fritters on paper towel.
  13. Dust sweet fritters with powdered sugar and savory fritters with a sprinkle of sea salt and serve immediately.

 

Strufolli (Holiday Honey Balls)

Stuffoli
Struffoli (Fried Honey Balls)

It wouldn’t be Christmas in a Neapolitan house without struffoli, little round fritters bathed in a boiling honey glaze and then topped with colorful sprinkles.

The little marbles are crispy outside with a nutty flavor sweetened by the honey. The inside is light and airy. The sprinkles are just for show.

Some families mound struffoli into a pyramid reminiscent of a Christmas tree. Others form a wreath to celebrate the holiday. At my house in Jersey we always built a pyramid and I still do today.

Struffoli keep well. My mother made them a day or two before Christmas and set them on the dining room buffet. The arrival of struffoli was a harbinger of Saint Nick’s imminent arrival.

When I was little, I’d sneak by and quickly snatch one or two struffoli with my fingers, stuffing them in my mouth as I walked through the dining room. It wasn’t long until my Mom saw a dent in the side of the struffoli pyramid and brought my pilfering to an abrupt end.

This is one of those things I only make once a year. I got an early start this year but I’ll be making more for the Christmas table back in Jersey.

Oh, you don’t have to eat struffoli with your fingers. Give each of your guests a couple of heaping mounds on a plate and a spoon.

If you want another holiday sweet this season make bow ties a/k/a cenci, wandi and bugia. I love the blisters that form on the bow ties as they quickly fry. No honey glaze here just a powdered sugar dusting before eating. Watch out, the delicate bow ties splinter with each bite and sometimes send out a puff of powdered sugar. They sure are fun to eat.

Struffoli (Honey Balls)

Dough

1 3/4 cups                      all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon                 sugar

1/8 teaspoon                salt

zest of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1/2 orange

3                                        eggs

1 tablespoon                  rum, grappa or vanilla

Honey Glaze

1 cup                                 honey

2 tablespoons                sugar

1/4 cup                            water

1/4 cup                            colored sprinkles

Directions

  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in a large bowl. Mix well.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour.
  3. Add the eggs and rum (or grappa or vanilla) to the well and beat the eggs.
  4. With a fork or your hand mix the flour slowly into the eggs to form the dough. The dough should be sticky.
  5. Turn the dough out on a floured board and knead briefly until the dough comes together. (Do not overwork the dough or the strufolli will be dense.)
  6. Form the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  7. Turn the dough back out onto a floured surface. It still will be sticky, roll it around in the flour and form it back into a ball.
  8. Cut the ball into 8 equal pieces and form each into a ball. Dust lightly with flour so they do not stick together and put all but one of them back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  9. On the floured surface roll out the dough ball with your hands into a rope about a half-inch in diameter. (Be sure to cover the bowl so the remaining balls do not form a crust.)
  10. With a knife or pastry scrapper ut the ropes in half-inch pieces.
  11. Roll the cut pieces into a ball about the size of a marble and put them in a single layer on a lightly floured baking pan. (Forming the round shape is important. Strufolli derives from the word for rounded.)
  12. Repeat with the other 7 dough balls.
  13. Put 3 cups of safflower or your favorite oil in a large pot and over medium heat bring the oil to 375 degrees.
  14. Shake off any excess flour and fry small batches of the dough balls in hot oil, turning occasionally until they are a dark golden color all over. They should be done in about a minute or so.
  15. With a slotted spoon, remove the struffoli to a large platter lined with paper towel to drain.
  16. Put the honey, sugar and water in a pan large enough to hold all the struffoli,
  17. Over medium-low heat stir until the sugar is melted.
  18. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking the glaze until it comes to a boil, starts to foam up and darken in color, about a minute or two. (The foam should dissipate soon after it foams up.)
  19. Remove the glaze from the heat and add all the strufolli.
  20. Mix well to cover all of the strufolli with the honey glaze.
  21. With a slotted spoon transfer the strufolli to a serving platter and mold them into a pyramid or a wreath.
  22. Drizzle some of the honey glaze left in the pot over the strufolli and scatter the sprinkles on the top of the strufolli mound.

Serves 6-8.

Loosely cover the strufolli with plastic wrap. If you are lucky you can eat strufolli for several days.

Buon appetito!

Pignoli Cookies

Pignoli Cookies

Want an easy and sweet treat for your holiday table? Bake some almond cookies topped with pine nuts.

We always have a stash of pignoli cookies for our Christmas table. You can make them in less than an hour.

A fan asked for this recipe. She has fond pignoli cookie memories but the recipe slipped away.

She got excited when I told her I’d make some. “Thank you thank you thank you! I can’t wait! I want to surprise my mother with them. Our recipe was lost to the last generation. I should have paid more attention.” Well here you go. I hope these cookies match your memories.

Pignoli cookies are moist and soft with crunchy toasted pine nuts on top. Eat them right away or store them for up to a week in a sealed container. Only problem is I usually don’t have any left to store.

I love pignoli cookies so much I can’t wait for Christmas and make them all year long.

Buon Natale. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:116]

Tulare Giant Plum Crostata

Tulare Giant Plum Crostata

We’re nearing the end of summer and the plums have been superb. I wanted a final plum celebration to tide me over until next season.

I was on a mission–looking for those tiny Italian prune plums at the Sunday North Beach Farmer’s Market. As we tasted several varieties of purple plums at Inzana Ranch & Produce (Hughson, CA) we heard a story about the farmer’s visit to his ancestral village near Messina Sicily. For days they were constantly surrounded by family and villagers in awe of the special guests from America. With that Sicilian embrace how could you not get in touch with a part of your cultural DNA.

The prune plums weren’t quite at their peak yet. I needed something more mature for the rustic crostata I had in mind. The winner of our taste test were the relatively new varietal Tulare Giants–sweet as sugar and a beautiful purple-yellow in color. Not too juicy so they’re great for baking.

 

Tulare Giant Plum Crostata with Whipped Cream

A little dollop of whipped cream is all you need to garnish and finish the crostata. The crust is tender and lends a crumbly buttery finish to each bite. The plums caramelize on top in the open center and remain soft and sweet beneath the crust.

But I’ll have to make this again. The small Italian prune plums are my favorite and they may just be sweeter and riper next Sunday at the North Beach Farmer’s Market. You can go to market at noon or later and still have your pick of all the bounty.

Stop by Sunday–say hello to friends and neighbors–get some great local organic produce. Maybe you’ll hear a cello or maybe a guitar and song. You’ll be inspired for sure….

So here’s the crostata recipe many of you have been asking for since my Il Pranzo post last summer. Can’t believe it’s that time of the year again!

 

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:48]

Easter Pies: Pizza Rustica & Pastiera Napoletana

This one’s for the start of the meal – only on Easter!

Easter 2012 Update!

I put together a 4-course Easter dinner menu with wine pairings that your family and friends will love. Pizza Rustica is the opening act and Pastiera Napoletana is the closer. Check out the menu post that includes my video demonstrations and text recipes for each course.

This year for Easter I’ll be in Virginia with my sister Lucia and brother-in-law Carlo, my nieces and nephews, their spouses, and my great nieces and nephews. It’s a three-generation cooking branch of the family. We’ll all be in the kitchen making the pizza rustica and pastiera napoletana, probably on Good Friday. But, we won’t eat them until Easter Sunday.

Serve the pizza rustica as part of the antipasti course and the Pastiera as your dolce (dessert).

The pastry crust recipes are  basically the same for both except I leave out the sugar and lemon rind in the torta rustica crust. These are very versatile pastry crusts that can be used in many applications.

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Buona Primavera! Happy Spring!

Pizza Rustica

This savory pie is also called torta rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza chiena or in Neapolitan-English slang, pizza gain.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:10]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:11]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:12]

Pastiera Napoletana

This is probably the most famous Neapolitan pastry and it is one of my absolute favs. But, I still only make it once a year at Easter. Here in America, Pastiera is sometimes called pizza grano, Easter sweet pie, ricotta cheese cake, pizza or torta dolce.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:13]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:14]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:15]

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

The dessert of Italian Father's Day.

Once a year, that’s it. No, I’m not talking about sex.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe should only be made on St. Joseph’s feast day, March 19, also Father’s Day in Italia. This is when I make mine. It’s tradition.

Traditions fade though. Now you can get this popular pastry all year round in many Italian-American communities and even at pasticcerie (pastry shops) in Napoli where it was invented in 1840 by Don Pasquale Pintauro. His pasticceria in Naples is still open.

But tradition is alive in North Beach. Victoria Pastry (Stockton/Vallejo) only makes Zeppole di San Giuseppe on March 19. If you want to make sure you get some order ahead. I did for years but now I make my own.

Victoria makes a smaller, simpler Tuscan version. My Zeppole di San Giuseppe are the ones you will find in Napoli and at Ferrara’s in NYC’s Little Italy.

BTW, pasticciera, the thick boiled custard cream filling is a versatile concoction that can be used in dozens of other recipes, even gelato!

Makes 12 Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Dough

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the water, butter, sugar and salt in a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir a few times.
  2. As the water begins to boil and the butter is melted take the pan off the flame.
  3. Add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a dough.
  4. Put the pan over medium-low heat and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy and begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan about 3 minutes.
  5. Take the pot off the flame and break the eggs one at a time and quickly beat each egg until the egg is fully incorporated into the dough and then add the next egg. Work quickly you don’t want to scramble the eggs.
  6. Return the pot to the flame and stir vigorously until the dough forms a smooth, thick paste 30-45 seconds.

Frying

  1. Cut parchment paper into 12 4-inch squares.
  2. Put the dough in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip (#6) and pipe a 3-inch circle of dough on the parchment paper. Fill in with smaller concentric circles so that you have a solid filled-in circle.
  3. Put about a 1/2 inch of canola or peanut oil in a 8 or 10-inch skillet and over a high or high-medium heat bring the oil to 375 degrees. Check the temperature to ensure it stays at 375.
  4. Fry the zeppole a few at a time with the parchment side facing up.
  5. As the zeppole begins to fry, use tongs to gently peel off the parchment.
  6. Fry the zeppole slowly. The first side should take about a minute to turn a light golden color.
  7. Turn the zeppole over and fry the second side until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  8. Turn over to the first side and finish frying until this side gets golden brown, about a minute. You want to make sure that the zeppole is cooked all the way through but don’t let either side get too dark.
  9. Drain the zeppole well on paper towel and let cool before filling with the pasticciera. The zeppole should be light, puffed up and airy.

Baking

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it and pipe out the 3-inch zeppole as described above.
  3. Bake until lightly golden about 15 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until the zeppole are medium golden brown, puffed up and light when picked up.
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack.

If you don’t want to use a pastry bag, use a heaping tablespoon of dough for either the frying or baking method instead of piping the circles.

Pasticciera (Boiled Custard Cream)

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Cooking Directions

  1. Mix the flour and 1/2 cup sugar in a big bowl. Whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and is quite thick.
  2. In a large saucepan mix the milk, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Scald over medium heat stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch or form a film.
  3. When a ring of small bubbles forms around the edge of the pan  remove it from the heat.
  4. Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk a little at a time into the flour and egg mixture. You’re tempering the mixture so whisk vigorously. You don’t want to scramble the eggs.
  5. Whisk in a second cup of hot milk into the flour and egg mixture and then return the tempered mixture to the pan with the hot milk whisking constantly.
  6. Slowly over medium-low heat and whisking constantly cook the mixture until it thickens, about 4 minutes. Take it off the heat when you see the first boil bubble.
  7. Set up another large bowl with a fine strainer and pass the pasticciera through the strainer using a spatula to push it through the mesh.
  8. Mix in the vanilla well.

To Assemble the Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Additional Ingredient

  • For decoration Amarena cherries (sour cherries in syrup from Campania)
  1. Put the pasticciera in a pastry bag.
  2. Pipe the cream into the zeppole. Use the tip to break the surface of the zeppole so you get some cream inside the zeppole. Finish with a small rosette on the top.
  3. Top the rosette with an amarena cherry and a bit of its syrup.
  4. You can dust the top with confectioner sugar if you like.

The fried zeppole di San Giuseppe should be eaten soon after they are made. The baked zeppole will hold up longer. If you make the zeppole shells in advance you can crisp either the fried or baked shell by putting them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes before filling them.

If you don’t want to use the pastry bag, cut the zeppole shell in half and spoon in some of the pasticciera.