Zeppole di Natale
Zeppole di Natale, a festive Italian favorite, traces its roots back to the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia. Once a simple treat made from flour and yeast, today's version is enriched with potatoes and lemon zest, mirroring Italy's culinary evolution.
Originating in Naples, these Christmas fried dough rings are scented with lemon zest, are flash-fried, then dusted with sugar or sometimes cinnamon. Simple ingredients blend to make delicate airy Christmas treasures that are the perfect dessert for the holiday season. Italians like them so much, they continue to make and enjoy through to New Year's Day.
Boil potatoes, and peal with your fingers while they are still hot. Allow to cool and then pass the potatoes through a ricer.
In a large bowl, mix riced potatoes, flour, yeast mixture, eggs, sugar, salt and lemon zest to form a smooth dough. Mix at first with a fork, and then use your hands to knead the dough together for several minutes, making sure it is well incorporated. Cover the dough loosely and allow to rise in a warm place for about ½ hour.
Slice off about 2 tbsp of dough and roll into a short rope, about ¾ inch in diameter. Form the rope into a ring and twist the ends to seal the ring. It will look like a ribbon. Set aside and allow to rise again for about ½ hour.
In a large frying pan, heat oil. Test the oil with a bit of dough, and fry zeppole until golden on both sides. Remove from pan and drain for a moment on a paper towel.
Add cinnamon and sugar to a wide bowl. Roll the zeppole in the sugar and cinnamon while still hot. Set aside and serve hot or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.