Italian Fried Doughnuts

Reader Contribution by Heather Alf
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For the last week we had no propane and as a result I have had to cook all of my food on an electric skillet. This week is Holy week and ,for my family, usually involves a lot of baking in preparation for Easter Sunday. Lent officially ends on the Saturday before Easter at noon. For most Christians the 40 days prior to Easter, known as Lent, is a time of prayer and fasting. Traditionally Christians “give something up” for Lent. Our family gave up sweets so I had to think of something easy and delicious to make on an electric skillet to break our fast.

Fortunately, I remembered one of my favorite child hood treats that my Grandfather used to make during the Easter season, Italian fried doughnuts (Zeppole,or crispelle).

My Grandparents always found a way to tell people how healthy their deserts were.  My grandmother would always tell us exactly what we were eating.  “There are fresh eggs, whole wheat, milk, butter, and no chemicals in here,” she would say in her musical New York Italian voice. Grandpa’s cake (or whatever it was we were eating) made a wholesome breakfast according to grandma.

These doughnuts may not have a heart healthy seal of approval from the FDA, however they are Grandma Grimaldi approved, easy to make, and perfect to break any fast or diet with. Italians traditionally serve them on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at Easter, and on picnics. They are usually served for desert with coffee, but rarely for breakfast. Enjoy!

Italian Fried Doughnuts Recipe

6 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
Water about 2 ½ cups
1 quart of peanut (or other suitable oil) for deep frying
Powdered or cinnamon sugar for dusting

In the bowl of a mixer add flour, yeast, salt and sugar.  Scramble the eggs with the olive oil in a separate bowl. With the dough hook attachment turn the mixer on low to incorporate the dry ingredients. With the mixer running, add the egg/oil mixture and as much water as you need to make a cohesive dough. The dough should be sticky but hold together. Knead the dough by machine for about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixing bowl a few times to ensure full incorporation of ingredients. Next, cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise in a warm location for about 2 hours. When the dough has risen oil your hands with a little olive oil and sprinkle the counter with a bit of flour. Knock down the dough. To form the doughnuts, pinch small pieces of dough and form into balls about half as big as you want your doughnuts to be. Palm size is just about right but some people like them smaller.

Allow the doughnuts to rise for about half an hour, meanwhile in a deep skillet, frying pan, or deep fryer add the frying oil. Heat the oil to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Being careful not to over crowd them, place the doughnuts in the hot oil. Cook them for about 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown. When they are cooked drain them on brown paper for a few minutes. Finally sprinkle them with powdered sugar or roll them in cinnamon sugar. They’re also delicious with fresh jam.

These are best served piping hot.