- 50 min
The nativity scene is almost ready, just dust with fake snow and turn on the lights. In the meantime, sounds can be heard from the kitchen: someone is tinkering with a pan and a wooden spoon, as the wood burns in the stove to heat the hob. It is mom, who blends water, sugar and flour to create one of the oldest and most delicious of holiday treats: zeppole di Natale (Christmas fritters). Crunchy outside, soft inside, Christmas fritters (or ancient Scauratielli) are still a delicacy enjoyed in Campania, especially in the area of Cilento and in the Sorrento peninsula. Each family still jealously guards the recipe handed down through the generations: a few simple secrets to obtain a similar dough, later transformed into bigoli to be shaped into bows or circles… in fact, the shape doesn't matter. Christmas fritters are so good you can't wait to taste them! And we're sure that moms or grandmothers will still get upset if their grown-up children snatch up the freshly fried zeppole, still hot, before they're sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or dipped in honey. Surely one can say that "a zeppola makes Christmas": in the past, making these fritters was not only a pleasure but a duty! We too could not fail the tradition and invite you to prepare Christmas zeppole to rediscover the magic of the festive days to be experienced with the same intensity and warmth of the past, when everything was simpler and more genuine, basically better!
To prepare zeppole di Natale (Christmas fritters), start by pouring the water into a small saucepan and flavor it by grating the peel of half a lemon 1; place over the heat and pour in the sugar 2, then cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon 3;
Dissolve the sugar and, once the mixture has reached boiling point 4, remove from the heat and add the flour all at once 5. Keep stirring vigorously to mix everything, then put the pot back on the stove, reducing the heat to a minimum and continue to stir 6.
The mixture will be ready when it comes off the sides and lightly coats the bottom 7, just like choux paste. Grease the worktop with very little vegetable oil, then pour out the mixture on it 8 and work it slightly on the top (wait a few moments to avoid burning your fingers!) 9.
Using a blade, cut small pieces 10 and form strips of dough about 8 inches (20 cm) long and 3/4-inch (1.5 cm) thick 11. Once the strips are formed, you can join the ends in a bow, pressing gently where they overlap 12.
Here is your first zeppola 13. Continue this way until your dough is used up: with this recipe you'll get about 25. As they are ready, place them on a tray and cover them to prevent them from drying out too much 14. Heat the oil in a pan to a temperature of 280°F (140°C), measured with a kitchen thermometer. Once hot, fry a few zeppole at a time, 2 or 3 at most, so as not to lower the oil temperature too much 15.
After 3-4 minutes the zeppole will be crispy outside and soft inside. Once ready, drain them with a skimmer 16 and pour them on a tray lined with paper towels 17. Once you've finished frying, prepare the icing. Put the wildflower honey (or acacia honey, if you prefer) in a saucepan and melt it over very low heat 18,
flavor it with some grated organic orange peel 19. It will take very little time for it to become fluid and scented 20; remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. Take one zeppola at a time and dip it in honey. Drain it by hand or possibly with a fork 21.
As you glaze them all, place them on a tray 22 and decorate them with rainbow sprinkles (diavulilli) 23… and your Christmas zeppole are ready 24!
Zeppole di Natale (Christmas fritters) taste their best freshly made, even better while still hot!
Refrigerating or freezing is not recommended.
Zeppole di Natale (also known as Scauratielli) come in different versions: every family has its own. Some add liquor, vermouth or wine. Some flavor them with rosemary, lemon peel or other citrus fruits. You can also scent the honey glaze with powdered cinnamon or tangerine peel, lemon and aniseed essence. If you prefer, you can flavor your zeppole di Natale (Christmas fritters) with powdered sugar and cinnamon.