Italian Deep-Fried Cream Puffs for St. Joseph’s Day
The St. Joseph’s Day Cream Puffs, called bignè in Italian, are one of those typical sweets you cannot miss in Rome and the surrounding areas: they are prepared only in the period before March 19 and are very similar to the Neapolitan “zeppole“, also prepared during this period.
The difference between zeppole and cream puffs may be of little importance but in reality, makes the two desserts different: the zeppole are “open” and also contain a cherry on top, the cream puffs are round and the cream inside does not contains anything else.
An institution like many other products of Roman cuisine, the real Roman puffs are fried and filled with custard, possibly with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
The recipe is simple even if it requires a little patience; the classic recipe of cream puffs involves frying but the same can also be cooked in the oven following this recipe.
Just because they are fried, these cream puffs are kept as freshly made for about 24 hours then start to lose consistency and flavor. However, they must be kept in the fridge and consumed no later than 48 hours.
This is my classic recipe, traditional and super tested to prepare some excellent St. Joseph’s Day Italian Cream Puffs at home; if you are in Rome around the 19th of March, you won’t find hard to eat them in every pastry shop in the city.
Ingredients for 6 portions
- 150 grams of plain flour
- 80 grams of unsalted butter
- 200 grams of water
- 4 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 60 grams of sugar
Italian Deep-Fried Cream Puffs Recipe
- Boil water, butter and salt in a non-stick saucepan and then, once it has boiled, turn off the heat and pour the flour into it; turn the flame back on, bringing it to a medium heat, put the pot back on the stove and cook until the dough starts to peel off the edges. Keep on the stove over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes more.
- Add the eggs and sugar after removing the pot from the heat and allowing it to cool for a few minutes then stir to remove the bubbles that form; remove the dough from the pot, pour it into an aluminum bowl and let it rest for about 30 minutes covered with a cotton cloth.
- Using two tablespoons make balls of dough to fry in plenty of seed oil and to touch as little as possible the balls of dough because these, in contact with oil, will start to swell and live their own life so if touched they could deflate instantly : allow each ball to brown on both sides and then drain on a piece of absorbent paper.
- Once cooled, fill the puffs with some custard, sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar or leave to natural and serve.
Preparation time: 1 hour
Italian Deep-Fried Cream Puffs: advice
- If you want to soften your cream puff, add sugar to the batter;
- For a greater browning, add 50% of milk in the batter, instead of water;
- By adding more fat to the batter, you will obtain a lighter and crumbly cream puff;
- Decreasing the fat in the batter will lead to a heavier puff;
- You can opt for a double cooking (which is not included in the traditional recipe) so that your cream puffs are crunchy and dry: first cook them in a hot oven and then fry them, handling them delicately when you move them from the baking pan to the cooking oil prevent them from breaking.
The origins of these Italian Deep-Fried Cream Puffs
In Italy San Giuseppe is celebrated everywhere but in Rome it is a particularly felt occasion. Since 1400 there are evidence of the attachment of the city to this Saint, with the celebrations that were held mainly next to the Church of St. Joseph of carpenters, precisely because in Christian symbolism Joseph, father of Jesus, was a carpenter. In the 19th century, the festivities moved to the Trionfale neighborhood, near the Basilica of San Giuseppe, which was surrounded by banquets where fritters were baked.