eat in my kitchen

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Tag: choux pastry

Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Fresh Berries

Maltese Zeppoli

My Maltese family has been telling me about zeppoli – or zeppole in Italian – for many, many years. Countless stories about these puffy, tiny balls of choux pastry, fried to golden perfection, and filled with ricotta, fed my curiosity and made my mouth water. In Malta, the little sweets, also known as sfineġ, are traditionally made on the 19th March to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. The filling is rich, refined with chocolate and candied peel and fruit, and topped with chopped hazelnuts. In other parts of the Mediterranean, like southern Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, you can also find them plain, rolled in sugar, dipped in melted chocolate, or topped with vanilla custard. There wasn’t the slightest doubt which version I’d go for.

The problem is, when you have an idea of a classic dish without actually ever having tried it, it becomes a dish of its own. In my mind, I always imagined the little puff balls filled with pretty berries. I couldn’t really see the chopped chocolate bits but lots of vanilla freshly scraped out of its pod, sweet orange juice, and fragrant Maltese honey stirred into the creamy ricotta. I have an excuse, I’ve never been to the Maltese archipelago on St. Joseph’s special day, so I have never tried a single original zeppoli. Therefore, I just used my imagination and my critical Maltese man, and gave this project a go in my kitchen. I’m not the biggest fan of deep-frying – and some zeppoli recipes even allow you to bake the pastry in the oven – but I didn’t want to move away from its origin too much. I made 26 of the crisp balls and to my surprise, they all turned out well, apart from the usual 2 to 3 first trials to find the right temperature setting. It should be relatively low, on medium, so that the inside can cook long enough without burning on the outside – golden and crisp should be the goal. The filling was delicious, fine and aromatic, and a couple raspberries and blueberries on top made it summery fresh. I was more than pleased with the result, and so was my Maltese man, the last zeppoli ‘disappeared’ after dinner.

There’s also a savoury version of this dish, filled with anchovies, however, my imagination fails to give me an idea of how this would taste. I guess I have to go to Malta for this culinary experience. If you’re into deep-fried sweets, you can also try my Greek Loukoumades, made with yeast dough.

Have a Happy Easter with your loved ones and enjoy lots of chocolate eggs! xx

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

Maltese Zeppoli – Fried Cream Puffs with Vanilla Ricotta and Berries

Makes about 26 cream puffs

For the filling

fresh ricotta 250g / 9 ounces
flowery honey, such as orange blossom, 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/2
raspberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)
blueberries, 1 small handful (about 100g / 3 1/2 ounces)

For the choux pastry

sunflower oil, about 1 1/2l / 6 cups, to fry the pastry
unsalted butter 120g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 50g / 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
plain flour, siefted, 130g / 1 cup
organic eggs 3

For the topping

icing sugar

For the ricotta filling, in a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta, honey, orange juice, and vanilla seeds until creamy. Season with honey and vanilla to taste. Keep the ricotta in the fridge until you fill the choux pastry.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the sunflower oil on medium-high heat. Line a large baking dish with kitchen paper.

For the pastry, in a large pot, bring the butter, sugar, salt, and water to the boil. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon, and mix until smooth and the dough comes away from the side of the pan. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in with a spoon, 1 at a time, only mix in the next one when the one before is well combined.

When the oil is hot – dip in the bottom end of a wooden spoon, little bubbles, should form around it – scoop out 1 heaping teaspoon of the dough and carefully scrape it with a second teaspoon into the hot oil. Start with 2 balls of dough to adjust the temperature, you might have to turn the heat down to medium or a little bit lower. The pastry has to cook for 4-6 minutes for the inside to be cooked through. The outside should be golden and not dark brown. If they become dark after 2-3 minutes, turn the heat down. Transfer the cooked zeppoli to the lined baking dish and continue frying the remaining dough. Let them cool completely.

Using a sharp knife, cut a wide slit in the top part of each zeppoli and fill with a spoonful of the vanilla ricotta. Top with 2-3 berries, sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve. Once the zeppoli are filled, they should be enjoyed within the next hour as the ricotta soaks the pastry.

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

Maltese Zeppoli

 

zippoli12

Sunday Profiteroles! Vanilla Cream Puffs with Figs, Pears and Blackberries

Vanilla Cream Puffs

There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about cream puffs. Voluptuously shaped and lusciously filled with vanilla cream, ripe figs, pears and blackberries they are anything but a simple teatime sweet. This creation calls for a pretty coffee table, delicate porcelain, frilly napkins and table cloth, my granny Annie would have loved it! She was very much into extravagant Sunday afternoon treats, she used to welcome her guests dressed up, with lipstick and jewellery. Her Frankfurt Crown Cake – the German Frankfurter Kranz – was her legendary masterpiece, delicious and opulent, it was the star of many coffee tables.

Airy choux pastry, golden and crisp, is the secret of a good profiterole. Be it in an elegant oblong éclair or a baroque shaped Windbeutel –  cream puff in German – the sensitive dough has to rise well first and then keep its shape. To get there stress-free, there are two rules to obey: the door of the oven should never be opened while the pastry is baking; and, once it’s done, the little puff balls have to stay in the oven with the door closed for a few minutes to dry and build up structure. When they cool off a little they are more robust than they may seem, which is helpful as they have to carry quite a rich filling.

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

Vanilla Cream Puffs

Vanilla Cream Puffs with Figs, Pears and Blackberries

For 12 cream puffs you need

For the vanilla cream

milk 350ml / 1 1/2 cups
organic egg yolks 2
granulated sugar 80g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon
a pinch of salt
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup
vanilla pod, slightly slit, 1
heavy cream, whipped, 100ml / 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons

For the choux pastry

butter 80g / 3 ounces
sugar 4 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
milk 90ml / 1 /3 cup and 1 tablespoon
water 90ml 1 /3 cup and 1 tablespoon
plain flour, sieved, 130g / 1 cup
organic eggs 3

Fruits

crisp pear, cut into slim wedges, 1
ripe figs, cut into slim wedges, 6
blackberries, a small handful

icing sugar, for the topping (optional)

For the vanilla cream, whisk 4 tablespoons of the milk with the egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch until well combined. In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk with the vanilla pod to the boil. Take the vanilla pod out and scrape the seeds out of the bean into the milk. Add the egg-sugar mixture to the hot milk, whisking well. Take the saucepan off the heat immediately and whisk for another minute. If it crumbles, whisk in a little more milk. Let the cream cool and then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Once it’s cool, whip the heavy cream and fold into the vanilla cream gently. Keep the vanilla cream in the fridge until you fill the choux pastry.

Set the oven to 200°C ( °F) (top / bottom heat) and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

For the dough, bring the butter, sugar, salt, milk and water gently to the boil. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon, mix until smooth and the dough comes away from the side of the pan. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Beat the eggs in with a spoon, one at a time, only mix in the next one when the one before is well combined.

Fill the dough in a piping bag with a wide nozzle and pipe the mixture into 12 balls. Bake in the oven for about 19 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, don’t open the door while the choux pastry is baking. When it’s done, switch off the oven but leave it closed. After 5 minutes open the door slightly, only the stick of a wooden spoon should fit in, and let the pastry dry for another 5 minutes (this way they keep their shape). Take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack completely.

Prepare the cream puffs just before serving: cut off the tip, fill generously with vanilla cream and fruits and close with the lid again. Sprinkle with icing sugar (optional) and enjoy!

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

vanillacreampuffs13

 

Vanilla Cream Puffs

 

vanillacreampuffs9

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