Żeppoli ta’ San Ġużepp are delicious fried choux pastry balls filled with a sweet ricotta mixture and drizzled with honey. In Malta they are traditionally made on the 19th of March to celebrate St Joseph.
As our neighbouring Italy, in Malta we celebrate St Joseph, and just like them we enjoy this feast with the finger licking treat of żeppoli. All around Italy there are several versions of these żeppoli, and even in Malta. Today’s recipe is one of the versions that you can find during March. This one is made with choux pastry that is shaped as a ball and fried. Although, lately it has become popular to bake them instead of frying. After they cool, these żeppoli are cut and filled with a sweet ricotta mixture. This mixture is very similar to that of the cannoli. It is made from ricotta, chocolate shards, nuts, candied peel, sugar and zests. The other version of Maltese żeppoli ta’ San Ġużepp are made with rice and aren’t filled.
How to make the choux pastry (Pâte à Choux) for the żeppoli?
The choux pastry is made with basic ingredients. However, it has a tricky method which will make or break your end result. The choux pastry starts by cooking the dough. First up, bring to a boil the water, butter, salt and, if needed, sugar. Once this mixture starts to boil, remove from the heat and add all at once the flour. Make sure to incorporate completely the flour. Here the dough starts taking shape. Transfer the saucepan back to medium heat. Stirring constantly, continue cooking the dough. Be careful to not let the dough stick at the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Once the dough is cooked, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. You can either use a stand mixer or else do it by hand with a whisk or spatula. Mix the dough for a few seconds so that the dough cools slightly. Add an egg and mix in the dough. The dough will split at first, but do not panic just continue mixing, the dough/batter will get better soon. Continue adding an egg at a time. The dough is ready when a V-shaped is formed on the whisk when you lift it up.
How to cook the żeppoli?
Cooking these żeppoli is relatively easy, they just need to be fried in hot oil. However, you can also opt to bake these żeppoli in the oven!
To make these żeppoli, start by filling a large pot with vegetable oil and heat it to about 170°C. Once ready to fry, using two table spoons, grab some batter on the spoon and with the other spoon gently drop the batter in the oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough, as when you drop the batter it should rise to the top and starts puffing immediately. The cooking time should take about 3 minutes on each side of the fritter or until they achieve a nice golden colour.
To cook the żeppoli in the oven, start by preheating the oven to 220°C or 425°F. Pipe the choux pastry on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Leaving a good amount of space between each żeppola, as they puff up quite a lot. Start baking the żeppoli at this temperature for about about 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180°C or 350°F and let cook for another 30 minutes. During this baking time, do not open the oven door as this might cause the żeppoli to deflate. Once the żeppoli are done, take them out and place on a cooling rack. While still hot, I like to poke some holes at the bottom to let the steam out.
Making the Sweet Ricotta Filling
The ricotta filling is relatively easy to make! Start by choosing a good rich ricotta and with a fork slightly mash in a bowl. Mix in the icing sugar, nuts, candied peel, vanilla extract and zests. You can either do this step by hand or with an electric mixer. Once everything is combined, gently fold in the chocolate shards. Store in the fridge until ready to use. Only fill in the żeppoli with this sweet ricotta mixture when ready to serve! This mixture can also be used to fill cannoli.
Can I put sugar in my choux pastry?
Of course! However, traditionally sugar isn’t an ingredient used in the dough. The main reason is that the sweet ricotta filling is already very sweet in itself, and additionally, at the end, these żeppoli are generously drizzled in honey.
How to store the żeppoli?
Żeppoli are ideally made to be eaten immediately, as they will get soggy if you let them stand, especially if you fill them way in advance. Therefore, I only recommend that you make them when you are going to eat them. However, if you have any leftovers, I suggest that you eat them by the next day.
Żeppoli ta’ San Ġużepp
- 125 ml water
- 60 g flour plain
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 65 g butter
- 2 eggs room temp
Sweet Ricotta Filling
- 250 g ricotta
- 15 g icing sugar
- 50 g chocolate shaved
- 50 g candied peel
- 50 g a mix of hazelnuts and almonds chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of a lemon
- Zest of an orange
- Chopped pistachios almonds or hazelnuts
- Icing sugar
Preparing the sweet ricotta filling
- In a bowl mash the ricotta with a fork. Mix in the icing sugar, chopped nuts, candied peel, vanilla extract, the orange and lemon zests.
- Once combined, fold in gently the chocolate shards. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preparing the Żeppoli
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil the water, butter and salt. Remove the saucepan. Add all the flour and stir well until all the flour is incorporated.
- Transfer the saucepan back on medium heat, and cook the dough for about 2 minutes. Stirring constantly to make sure that none of the dough sticks to the saucepan. Transfer the cooked dough to a large bowl.
- Mix the dough slightly so that it cools down a bit. You can either do these steps in a stand mixer or by hand.
- Start adding an egg at a time to the dough. Before adding another egg, make sure that the previous one is fully incorporated. In addition, do not be alarmed, but at first when you add the egg, the dough will break. Just continue mixing until a smooth dough will soon be achieved. Cover the bowl and store in the fridge until ready to fry or bake.
Frying the żeppoli (Option 1)
- Fill a large pot with vegetable oil, pour enough oil so that the sfineġ have enough space to cook in, about 7 cm. Heat the oil to about 170°C.
- Using two table spoons, grab some batter on a spoon and with the other spoon gently drop the batter in the oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough, as when you drop the batter it should rise to the top and starts puffing immediately.
- The cooking time should take about 3 minutes on each side of the fritter or until they achieve a nice golden colour.
Baking the żeppoli (Option 2)
- Preheat the oven to 220°C or 425°F.
- Pipe the choux pastry on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Leaving a good amount of space between each żeppola, as they puff up quite a lot.
- Start baking the żeppoli at this temperature for about about 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 180°C or 350°F and let cook for another 30 minutes. During this baking time do not open the oven door as this might cause the eclairs to deflate.
- Once the żeppoli are done, take them out and place on a cooling rack. While still hot, I like to poke some holes at the bottom to let the steam out.
- Once cooled, cut the żeppoli and fill them up with a generous dollop of sweet ricotta. Drizzle on top some honey and sprinkle some crushed nuts. You can also finish them with a dusting of icing sugar. Serve the same day that you make them!
If you have any questions, feedback or comments on this recipe, please leave a comment below. Please also rate this recipe by double clicking on the stars below. If you did make this recipe, tag @apronandwhisk and hashtag #apronandwhisk, as I’m curious to see what you create!
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