Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nutella Zeppole

Let me preface this post by stating these are absolutely in no way good for you. Though they may not nourish the body, they certainly do something spectacular for the soul, in the form of warm, satisfied fuzzies everywhere. I recommend them at least once a year when an indulgence is necessary.

Nutella What-a, you say? I was right there with you during my first dining experience at Cantinetta in Bellevue. The term "zeppole" had never been a part of my vocabulary until that fateful spring evening at the restaurant. But after one exposure to their signature dessert, we fell hard and fast and now they make their way into our mouths and bellies on a semi-annual basis, whenever my husband's birthday and half birthday roll around.

By definition, zeppole are round Italian pastries (read: doughnuts but OH SO MUCH BETTER for the American layman) that have been deep-fried and then rolled in sugar. They can be served as is, but also function as excellent vehicles for fillings such as Nutella (um, yes!), jelly, custard or cream. Personally, I have a pretty strong leaning toward the chocolate varieties and I am told the Cantinetta regulars do too. Our waiter told us about the one time their pastry chef tried to mix it up a bit and exchange the Nutella for some sort of fruit filling. The customers revolted with such severity that the endeavor was dropped immediately.

This particular version incorporates ricotta cheese into the dough and the results are so soft and airy. The fried zeppole are rolled in ginger sugar while they are still warm, and then a mixture of mascarpone cheese and Nutella are piped inside of each pastry. The filling melts inside and makes the dessert absolutely irresistible. My husband always asks that I serve them with an extra dollop of mascarpone for garnish though I would argue that vanilla ice cream makes a mighty fine accompaniment too.

If you don't own a candy/deep-fry thermometer, I would HIGHLY recommend getting one for this recipe. I am by no means a deep-fry expert. In fact for the most part I avoid frying like the plague (as should you), but when life happens and your husband determines deep-fried delectables are his favorite birthday dessert, you do your wifely duty and get on Google and figure out how exactly one deep-fries. As it turns turn out, very carefully. And with a deep-fry thermometer, I assure you. The temperature of the oil is incredibly important here and a step in either direction (too hot or too cold) will land you with hockey pucks as black as charcoal or rounds of blond dough that are raw in the middle and absolutely will not brown. I know this from personal experience. I tried making this recipe once when my thermometer was packed away in moving boxes. I guessed at the oil temperature and the results were not pretty. So throw one in the cart the next time you are at Safeway. You'll find them in the baking aisle.

Also, I feel it's important that I note that the zeppole will turn a pretty dark shade of brown when they are finished frying. I always think I'm on the verge of burning them (they somehow look darker in the oil than out) but as long as your oil temperature is where it should be, they should be fine cooking for a full 5 minutes. If you are working with an electric stove (like I currently am), it can be a bit tricky to hold the oil temperature steady. You may find you need to pull the skillet off the burner a bit if the oil gets too hot.

I know this post contained a lot of technical details but I promise these puppies are WORTH IT and really don't take that long to pull together (once of course you muster the courage to deep fry). Make a date night of it sometime and make these with your spouse before curling up to watch a movie!

Nutella Zeppole
(adapted from and inspired by our dining experience at Cantinetta)

1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)

To finish:
Canola oil, to fry
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
Mascarpone, to serve

To prepare batter: Whisk together flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and mix with dry ingredients until combined. Next, add the ricotta and powdered sugar and mix just until blended.

To prepare filling: In a separate small bowl, mix together mascarpone and Nutella until thoroughly combined. Scoop filling into a gallon-sized zip-lock bag. Cut a small piece off of one of the corners of the zip-lock to create a homemade "piping bag" for filling the doughnuts.

In a third small bowl, combine together sugar and ground ginger and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat until deep-fry thermometer reads 375 degree F. Working in batches, drop tablespoon-sized balls of of batter into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove zeppole from oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Toss doughnut balls in the sugar ginger mixture and roll to coat. Repeat with any remaining batter.

Using a dull dinner knife, insert the blade into one side of each ball and twist the knife gently to create a cavern for the filling (be careful not to poke the knife all the way through). Pipe Nutella filling into each zeppole hole. Serve warm with a dollop of mascarpone.

Serves 6 (about 2 zeppole each)


  1. Just come bake them FOR me. This looks UNbelievable and I just want to partake in all the eating!!!


posted by kelsie