We are offering you a sneak peak into our new Italian Desserts e-book…
Whenever I visit a foreign country, I always buy a cook book.When my family went to Italy, I bought three. You will love this e-book as you take a journey into the experience of Italian desserts from the magical world of Italy. Besides learning how famous desserts are made, you will be fascinated with the history behind these delicacies!
This recipe is from the Roman region of Italy. It comes in many variations across the country and regions as bakers add their twists of heritage and tradition.
Also known in Italy as Beignets di San Giuseppe, this holiday treat was traditionally eaten during the Feast of St. Joseph, celebrated on March 19th every year. St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day in Italy, celebrating Jesus’ father and his significance. These desserts are sold on many streets and given as gifts.
Outdoor cafe’ with cooling mist! Ahhh!
Meals in Italy, especially dinners, are usually later in the evening. One of our favorite times on our trip was the meals eaten in the piazzas. The communities come together and create a feeling of togetherness. The families, young and old, come out and enjoy each other. It’s a celebration of life and almost magic in itself just eating in Italy! The meals can last up to two or more hours of talking, laughing and joining your hearts and souls of the people you are with. If this is everyday eating, imagine what a Feast Day would be like!
Padua Piazza in the afternoon
Celebrating our first night in Rome with a 5 course Italian Feast!
St. Joseph’s Feast Day is celebrated with meals and families coming together to create and carry on traditions and memories that last a lifetime. These meals usually do not involve meat since this feast falls during Lent. Sometimes “poor man’s cheese” is used instead of real cheese with the meals. It consists of bread crumbs and herbs fried in olive oil. The crumbs symbolize sawdust from St. Joseph, the Carpenter. The Irish have St. Patrick’s Day and Italians have St. Joseph’s Day. The Irish have their green beer and the Italians have their St. Joseph Beignets!
The American dessert that I would compare this is a cream puff. The only difference between the two is the American cream puff is mostly baked and the Beignets are fried. Italians have to put lemon zest in everything that they make. It adds a special flare of flavor that awakens the taste buds. However, this can be omitted if that is your preference. This recipe makes approximately a dozen Beignets.
For the Custard:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk, plus 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 a lemon
For the Beignets:
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
oil, to fry
For the Custard:
- Put sugar and 1 1/2 cups of milk in a large saucepan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then place on the stove at medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl using the whisk attachment, combine the eggs, 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch until smooth. Drain this mixture into another bowl to get any extra egg, or egg shells out of the mixture so it is completely smooth. Set next to the saucepan and get a whisk ready.
- Also, get the butter ready by cutting it into cubes and set next to the vanilla extract.
- Once the sugar and milk mixture starts to boil over, pour the egg mixture in and whisk until swamp bubbles appear. (Swamp bubbles are large boiling bubbles and they look like exactly like ones in a swamp from a cartoon) By this time the mixture is super thick and should be taken off the heat. Add the cubed butter, vanilla and lemon zest; whisk until the butter has melted.
- Pour onto a sheet pan and flatten out until it completely covers the pan. Cover in plastic wrap, make slits with a knife so it can breather and refrigerate right away. (You might want to use gloves because the sheet pan can get hot.) Refrigerate for an hour before using. Keeps refrigerated for up to 5 days.
For the Beignets:
- Mix the flour, vanilla sugar and powdered sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In a small pan, heat 6 tablespoons of water, butter and a pinch of salt. Once the butter has melted, turn off heat and pour the flour and sugar mixture into the pan. Mix the batter and return the mixture to medium heat. Continue stirring and cook the mixture until it sizzles. Turn off the heat and pour into a small bowl. When the mixture has cooled, add the eggs one at a time along with the lemon zest.
- Let the mixture sit for a half hour. Meanwhile, heat oil (Italians use extra virgin olive oil) on medium to desired temperature (between 365 and 375 degrees F).
- Once the batter is ready, drop golf ball sized portions of the batter into the hot oil and fry. For best results, pour the batter into a disposable pastry bag and cut about a 1/2 inch long hole at the bottom. The batter comes out stringy sometimes, so make sure to poor batter in the same area of the oil. Otherwise, it will turn out more like an elephant ear.
- When the beignets have raised and are golden brown, place them on paper towels to remove any excess oil. Let cool. Use a pastry bag to inject the custard into the beignets, then top with powdered sugar and serve.