May 11, 2011



Normally I do not like doughnuts, at least not the glazed and boxed kind most people go crazy over.  I can easily walk away from those when they all-too-often land in the teacher’s workroom.  But these little zeppole?  When I made them, I ate, like, dozens.  Unabashed doughnut gluttony.  Joy that I had made something so delicious.

Then there’s the feeling I get on other days, like today, when the gym scale’s number has risen a pound or two and I start to look at food like it is my enemy and not my best friend.  Of course, it secretly is and always will be my best friend, but I have to pretend to be angry with it right now.  For my own good.

I know it’s not just me who can be this crazy, and know that she’s being crazy, and yet is still unable to stop it.  Food is a huge part of my life, it brings me joy and allows me to bring joy to others, but when the paranoid girl switch is flipped, all bets are off.  I start to think about what I should be giving up, how much more time I should be putting in at the gym, worrying about how everyone around me can probably tell I gained a pound-and-a-half, and holy crap that woman has a much better body than I do, and  I really f-ed up by eating all of those doughnuts because these pants are feeling a little tight and CLEARLY IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD.

Because I work with teenage girls (boys, too, but I think it’s fair to say that girls still rock the majority of body image issues these days), I take very seriously the responsibility of modeling healthy lifestyle habits and not reinforcing crap stereotypes and abnormal expectations by not saying things like “Ugh, I feel so fat” or “I can’t, I’m on a diet” talk.  But sometimes it’s harder said than done, walking the talk.  And I feel like a hypocrite when I  feel bad, even privately, about my body.

But there’s no fixing this, is there?  I’m probably always going to have a complicated relationship with food, albeit one that has gotten much, much better over the years.  And if I really feel like I have been unhealthy in recent weeks, there are the logical things I know to do: add more vegetables, drink more water, cut back on caffeine & alcohol, do desserts and bread products in moderation, watch portion sizes, diversify my workouts.  Wear clothes I feel good in.  Flirt with the cute guys at the gym.  Remind myself that someday this body will be gone, at least the version as I currently know it, and there is a lot more to me than just some measurements.

And no matter what, I wouldn’t want to live a life that didn’t occasionally involve doughnuts.  Because that’s just no life at all.

from Bon Appetit, May 2011
The original recipe calls for a chocolate sauce to go alongside the zeppole, but I don’t at all think they need it.  In fact, I think sauce would overwhelm these delicious little morsels of joy.  Next time I’m going to try making them with orange zest instead of lemon, and rolling them in a bit of granulated sugar for a crunchy coating.

Make sure you have a lot of friends around when you make these, or people you’d like to become your friends.  Because they will.


2 cups + ½ T bread flour
½ cup + ½ T whole milk
¾ tsp. active dry yeast
¾ tsp. fine sea salt
3 T sugar
1 ½ tsp. lemon zest (I just used one lemon)
2 large eggs
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened & cut into cubes

vegetable oil, for frying
powdered sugar, for dusting

In the middle of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine flour, milk, yeast, salt, sugar, zest, & eggs.  Beat at low speed until a dough forms.  Gradually add butter, beating until absorbed and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and glossy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape dough off of the paddle and sides of the bowl; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2 hours.

Pour enough oil into a deep, heavy 5-quart pot to reach a 1 ½ inch depth.  Heat over medium until the oil temperature reaches 325°.   Working in batches, drop dough into the oil by heaping spoonfuls (about 1” in diameter).  [I found it was easier to roll the dough by hand, collect a plate-full at a time, and drop them all into the oil at nearly the same time.]  Don’t crowd!

Fry, turning occasionally until the zeppole are golden brown, about 4 minutes per batch.   Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to cool slightly.  Sift powdered sugar over the zeppole or shake them with the sugar in a paper bag.



  1. I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe
    I will not make this recipe

    But OMG they look good…

    Comment by NorCal Cazadora — May 11, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

  2. We are planning the donut-birthday-party for this weekend! I won’t be making homemade ones, though …

    Comment by Katherine — May 12, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  3. Thanks for the sweet walk down memory lane, Nishta! In my Italian-American family, with most of my parents’ generation and all of my grandparents born in Italy, zeppole were a much-loved dessert. We called them sfingi, and my great-aunt made the BEST!! There was always a big platter of them at special occasion parties. She deep-fried them….oh, they were wonderful and light as air. There used to be a Mandola restaurant on the Katy Freeway that closed years ago. They served zeppole, and they were good, but not as good as my Aunt’s. I don’t know if I’ll ever try today’s recipe, but I have SO enjoyed all the lovely family memories it has brought back to me! BTW, I can so relate to your musings on the food/weight/body image issues! How did you get inside my head??

    Comment by Terri Turilli — May 12, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

  4. Body image in young women…. now there is a tender morsel of issues!
    I was put on weight watchers a an early age, I lost my pudginess but little did my mom (with the best intentions) know that counting calories at a young age could create some serious body image issues. In my early 20’s i delved full fledged into anorexia. I was primed in counting calories and no matter how many miles I ran I knew that I should consume no more than 800 calories…. okay…. I will spare you the details but I just want to tell you a thank you from the bottom of my heart to not spread these false and obscure bod images onto our children. We need to change the paradigm into a healthy and self satisfying image.
    Food should be enjoyed and a pleasure not a source of guilt, self doubt and turmoil.
    Each of us can do our part and be the change we would like to see.

    Comment by Michelle — May 15, 2011 @ 12:07 am

  5. I struggle every day to model good behaviour to my student’s and suppress the “crazy girl” inside me saying that I shouldn’t like food, I should be working out more etc…Especially now that spring is upon us and every girl I encounter is single mindedly thinking about how they are going to look in a bikini this summer.
    Hopefully what we do everyday will help to counteract the screwed up messages they are getting from others.
    Wonderful post and amazing zeppole.

    Comment by Alyssa — May 15, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  6. I’m so blessed by each of your responses to this post, for so many different (but equally compelling) reasons!

    NorCal Cazadora–given how much I respect you & your point of view, it’s a thrill to have had you comment here. (and you should totally make these!)

    K–hope the donut party was a success! happy to make some homemade ones for my boys this summer.

    Terri–I’m so thrilled to have been a conduit for such powerful family/food (aren’t they the same thing?) memories. I don’t know if these zeppole would match what’s in your memory, but it might be fun to try! as for being in your head–just glad to have good company there.

    Michelle–wow. thank you for your perspective. I hesitated a bit to write this post, but I’m so glad I did. I appreciate you sharing so honestly.

    Alyssa–hopefully our mindfulness about not passing on craziness to our kids will help us feel a little less crazy inside, ourselves. thank you so much for your comment!

    Comment by Blue Jean Gourmet — May 16, 2011 @ 10:47 am

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