Sfinge – Zeppole

Whenever our extended families gather it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn into a debate about the name and origins of ‘Sfinge’ and ‘Zeppole’. Depending on the Italian region and family tradition, Sfinge (usually the Sicilian name) or Zeppole (usually the Calabrian name) are essentially Italian donuts.

They can be made with plain flour and dry yeast and warm water, or just with self raising flour and warm water (no yeast). And there’s a variety of ways to enhance the base batter mixture: you can enjoy them plain, just rolled in caster sugar, or you can add in sultanas, figs, or even anchovies and chilli for a savoury version. Naz assures me these are delicious!

Whatever you call them, or whatever you add (or don’t add to the batter), they’re absolutely delicious every time, and super easy to make!

Sfinge / Zeppole Ingredients
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup caster sugar (to mix the donuts in later)
Sultanas, if you’d like to mix these into the batter
2 fresh figs (which is what we used in the video recipe)

Place the flour into a large bowl
Add the dry yeast
Pour in the cup of lukewarm water and slowly add to the flour/yeast and mix in until there are no lumps. You’re looking for a thick pancake consistency. Nice and gooey.
Place a tea towel over the bowl and place in a warm place, usually on the stovetop for 30 minutes.
This is your base Sfinge/ Zeppole batter mixture. From here there are many possibilities!

If you’d just like ‘plain’ sfinge, you’d just fry them up as is and toss them into the caster sugar.
Depending on what you decide, after the 30 minutes, add any additional ingredients to the batter (or separate the batter into different bowls for different varieties).
We had 2 figs, which we peeled and mushed into some of the batter.
We also had half a cup of sultanas, which we mixed into some of the batter.
The rest we left plain.

Frying the Sfinge/ Zeppole

Using a domestic deep fryer, heat Vegetable oil up to 180 degrees (if you don’t have one of these fryers, just grab a small pot, half fill it with Vegetable oil and heat up to 180 degrees – buy yourself a cooking thermometer so you know when the oil has reached 180 degrees!

Spoon in dollops of the batter into the heated oil, and keep turning them to ensure they become golden brown all over.

Drain the donuts out of the oil, and place into a large bowl with caster sugar. Toss the donuts until they’re covered.

Serve while fresh and hot!

Italian Donuts – a slight variation
1 cup Self-raising flour
1 cup lukewarm water
And that’s it!

Mix the self-raising flour and lukewarm water in a large bowl ensuring all the lumps are out, and you want the same thick pancake consistency for the batter.
Unlike the sfinge/zeppole, you can cook these STRAIGHT AWAY! No need to wait for the yeast to work its magic in the plain flour. Add any of the extra ingredients you might like (sultanas, figs, or savoury options), and then heat up the vegetable oil to 180 degrees.
Using a spoon, dollop the mixture into the hot oil, turn and fry until golden brown, and then drain and toss into the bowl with Caster sugar.
As a variation to the Caster sugar, you could also add some Cinnamon sugar.

Go on, admit it … your tastebuds are watering!
A woman holding bowl of Italian donuts filled with sultanas and rolls in caster sugar

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