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St. Joseph's Day Zeppole- March 19

Updated: Jan 6

La Festa Di San Giuseppe

La Festa Di San Giuseppe or the Feast of St. Joseph is celebrated all over Italy, but has a more pronounced sense of festivity in the region of Sicily. The Sicilians consider him to be their patron saint because as the story goes, he was credited with saving them from a drought. They prayed for his intercession and promised that if he would bring rain, then they would be devoted in honoring him. St. Joseph came through, and when the drought ended they were able to grow their crops again. The harvest came and the Sicilian people kept their vow and prepared a great feast for him.

St. Joseph's Altar

The traditional St. Joseph's Table or Altar stems from this story and is a beautiful sight for bread and sweet treat lovers. Sicilians still take pride in their tables, which you may see displayed in homes, churches, and even some Italian cafes. Typically this table will be placed in an area for all to see and partake in. They will set their table nicely with a cloth and fill it with gifts of food and religious significance as a sign of thanks to the saint that saved them. Take a look at the list of the many traditional items you could put on your St. Joseph table! Of course, don't forget to adorn it with a statue or image of this reverenced saint.

  • Home made bread in the shape of carpenter's tools, sandals, crosses, etc.

  • Selection of fish (However, St. Joseph's Solemnity this year will fall on a Friday so you can eat meat. Traditionally speaking, because it is within the Lenten season, you should serve fish.)

  • Pastries

  • Citrus fruit

  • Flowers

  • St. Joseph's Sfingi or Zeppole, which to some Italian regions is not the same thing.

  • Fava beans, which is said to be one of the spared crops so it is there for good luck and abundance.

This table is meant to be shared, so invite friends and family to contribute to the table and delight in it together!


As you can see from the list, Zeppole is a featured piece and a timeless baking tradition for Italians who would do nothing less than seek to praise this honored saint with delicious sweets. Zeppole is a custard filled pastry that you may see vary slightly from region to region. However, they will all have in common that this is a slightly sweet choux pastry, filled with pastry cream, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with a cherry.

I am going to be very honest with you, I have tried 3-4 different recipes from Google, all of which were quite difficult to make and either didn't develop the custard to the right consistency, or the choux pastry. After a couple of years of this I thought, enough is enough, and I invited my professional pastry chef sister-in-law over to lend me her expertise. Liz, you are a Zeppole making angel! So when I say that this recipe is tried & true, practiced to perfection, I mean it y'all!

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

(depending on how hot your oven gets)

Yields: 16 servings

The Ingredients for the Pastry

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 cup flour

  • 4 eggs at room temperature

  • Pinch of salt

The Ingredients for the Filling

  • 2 cups milk at room temperature

  • 5 egg yolks

  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • Pinch of salt

  • Powdered sugar to garnish

  • Cherry to garnish

How to Make the Choux Pastry

1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

2. Prepare the choux pastry by doing the following.

3. In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat combine the 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup milk then bring it to a boil.

4. Add in 1 cup flour and stir like crazy (technical term, just kidding) with a wooden spoon until the mixture combines and forms a ball.

5. Cook until the texture is a bit more on the dry side. Remember, we are going to add in 4 eggs and don't want it to end up being runny and unable to pipe.

6. Then put your dough into a mixer with the paddle attachment, let the steam out by placing the setting on low.

7. Once you have released most of the steam, whisk in two eggs. We will do this two at a time so that we can be aware of the consistency of the pastry as it develops. The texture should be smooth and satiny.

8. After you have that combined, whisk in the last two eggs. This is what it should look like!

9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

10. Put the mixture in a piping bag with a large star tip attached.

11. Pipe small puffs onto your baking sheet. Use the short clip as a guide!

12. Place in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and allow them to cool on a rack.

13. While the pastry is baking, make your custard.

How to Make the Custard

1. Warm 2 cups milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

2. While that is warming, combine 5 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons corn starch into a bowl and whisk together until it is pale yellow.

3. Once the milk is hot, pour it very slowly into the egg mixture while whisking. This may take some practice, but the trick is to just keep pouring slowly so as to not cook your eggs in the bowl once the hot milk combines with them.

4. Transfer everything in the bowl back to the saucepan on medium heat and continue whisking. Keep it moving and try to mix towards the edges of the pot so to avoid any burning.

5. Mix until the custard is thick!

6. Slice 4 tablespoons butter and toss that into the mixture until thoroughly combined.

7. Once you have done that, put the custard in a bowl and cover it with Saran Wrap. Pro tip: Press the Saran Wrap down so that it is touching the entire top of the custard. This will prevent it from forming a film.

8. Place that in the refrigerator to chill until the pastry is ready.

How to Assemble

1. Put the custard into a piping bag with a medium size star tip.

2. You can fill the pastry in one of two ways.

Option One: Slice the pastry in half, fill the center, then pipe filling into the indentation on the top.

Option Two: Using a toothpick, poke a small hole in the bottom of the pastry, pipe the custard in through that hole until filled, you will feel it become heavier and see it filling up from the sides, then pipe filling into the indentation on the top.

We did option two!

3. Sprinkle powdered sugar over your treats with a mesh sieve.

4. Then add your cherry on top!

I kid you not, I ate three of these immediately after they were finished. It's a Solemnity!

St. Joseph Prayer

"O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers."

Did you make this recipe? If so I would love to see it, drop a picture in the comment or send it to me on social media Facebook @HisGirlSunday or Instagram @steffani_hisgirlsunday.

For more resources on building Catholic tradition, check out the blog section of my website or follow me on Facebook to see what Catholic things I am doing to make our day to day life more joyful.


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