As summer approaches and street fairs and festivals start to pop up, my thoughts turn to vendors hawking the fried dough called zeppole. Fortunately, here in Charlotte, we have Bruce Moffett’s Stagioni and can get the light, golden puffs of pastry any time of year.
Executive chef Andrew Dodd shared his recipe for the Italian staple, and they are surprisingly easy to make. Even better: The batter can be made in advance.
When you start frying, do a test on the first couple of zeppole to get the timing right. Try taking one out around the 3-minute mark and break it in half to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Once you have the timing down, continue with the rest of your batches. Dodd suggests using a spider or fry basket to keep the dough balls submerged once they puff.
Somehow, Dodd has managed to make this already perfect dish even better by serving it alongside warm salted caramel sauce. It takes some practice to get the deep amber color and smooth texture, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty simple. Using a candy thermometer until the sugar mixture reaches 350 degrees helps until visual cues become second nature. Also resist the urge to stir the sugar once it melts and comes to a boil. This sauce would be fantastic with so many things. Think apple slices (another festival favorite), vanilla ice cream, or drizzled on French toast.
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715 Providence Road, 704-372-8110.
From executive chef Andrew Dodd, Stagioni.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) butter
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon (35 grams) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
3 cups (415 grams) all-purpose flour
12 eggs (4 eggs separated, whites only, yolks saved for another use)
Oil for frying (Dodd prefers any type of nut oil)
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, salt and water to a boil.
Place flour in the bowl of a stand mixer set with the paddle attachment. On low speed, add melted butter/water mixture to flour and mix for 3 minutes. Slowly beat in 8 eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Remove batter from mixer and set aside.
If you’re going to use the stand mixer to whip the egg whites, meticulously clean and dry the bowl and switch to the whip attachment. Whip the four egg whites to stiff peaks, then slowly fold in reserved batter mixture until fully combined.
Preheat a fryer until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees (or pour oil into a frying pan to a depth of 2-3 inches). Using a 1 1/2-ounce scoop, spoon batter into hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the zeppole are cooked through and deep golden brown. Cook in batches of 3-4 with enough room in between to prevent them from touching.
Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately with Salted Caramel Sauce. Batter can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
Salted Caramel Sauce
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup heavy cream (approximately 40 percent fat)
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
Place a bowl full of ice and water nearby and have a stainless steel mixing bowl ready.
Pour water over the sugar in a 2- to 3-quart, high-sided, stainless steel stock pot and bring to low boil over medium heat. Do not stir. Once the sugar has reached a deep amber color (think dark beer), reduce heat to low and add the heavy cream in a slow stream while whisking very quickly. The mixture will bubble up, so use caution.
Add the salt, then remove from heat and transfer caramel to the stainless steel bowl placed in the ice water. Stir every 3 minutes until cool. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, and reheat before serving.