These sweets are available around the feast of St Joseph, and if you haven't tasted one yet, you're missing out.
Did you know that St Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs? That’s right, not carpenters, but pastry chefs. Figs and fig sweets are largely associated with celebrating St Joseph’s day, but so are the yummy dough fritters topped with powdered sugar or glazed with honey. These are traditionally known as zeppole or ffinge in Italy, or zeppoli or sfineg in Malta.
So what are zeppoli?
Zeppoli will vary from maker to maker, according to personal preference. The consistency of the doughnuts, or fritters, ranges from light and puffy to bread-like. They are typically stuffed with ricotta, pastry cream or custard, so you can pick yours to taste. Ricotta-filled zeppoli will sometimes include bits of chocolate or candied fruits in the ricotta mixture.
The terms zeppoli and sfineg are also used to refer to baked (as opposed to deep-fried) cream puffs made from choux pastry … and they’re not quite the same thing! Moreover, particularly in Malta, sfineg often refers to a savoury version stuffed with anchovy, typically consumed during Lent. Now, there’s an intriguing combination of sweet and salty!
March 19th, St Joseph’s Day, is the day to indulge in zeppoli to your heart’s content without an ounce of guilt, though you may add a few pounds in the process.
So what's the best place to get them on the Maltese Islands?
In a highly scientific research experiment, we asked Facebook group The Salott for recommendations on where to get these more-ish delicacies. Evidently, the Maltese love their sweets and we received more than 100 comments! A few makers stood out though - here’s what you told us.
1. Busy Bee
By far the most highly recommended is the traditional Busy Bee confectionery, something of a Maltese icon. It was recommended by no less than 24 per cent of respondents. Find ricotta-filled zeppoli at Busy Bee in Msida or Mriehel.
2. Dolceria Appetitosa
Next up was Dolceria Appetitosa in Rabat or Gharghur. Rabat actually celebrates the feast of St Joseph. The festive streets of this town are highly recommended if you want to try some of the best zeppoli the island has to offer.
3. Dream Cake Delights
This one is an interesting contender as there's no shop, only a Facebook page. Joslyne Sciberras of Dream Cake Delights sure has got herself a good reputation though! She makes zeppoli stuffed with ricotta or pastry cream.
4. Elia Cafe
Elia Cafe in Hamrun needs no introduction with locals. What stands out about their zeppoli is that they are apparently made with a rice filling rather than the usual ricotta, custard or pastry cream. A must try!
5. Choc Au Lait
Located in Mosta, Choc Au Lait reputedly has some of the best zeppoli on the island. Yes, yes... there is only one way to find out!
6. Deguara Confectionery
High recommendations for delicious zeppoli also go to Deguara Confectionery in Swieqi. Oh dear, we really want to taste them all!
7. Cafe Santa Lucia
Another iconic cafe that needs no introduction is Cafe Santa Lucia in Attard. We’re not surprised it was recommended as one of the best places to indulge in zeppoli.
And that's not all...
There were many other mentions and everyone has their personal favourite. You can also try Maypole in all parts of Malta, Manouche in St Julians, Treecake in Mosta, Simlers Confectionery in Sliema and Dolci Peccati in Sliema, although your local confectionery probably does pretty good ones too! Why not try zeppoli or sfineg at every confectionery you stumble upon in this period and test them out for yourself?
Of course, you can always try making your own. Here’s a zeppoli recipe by allrecipes. Perfect for when it’s nowhere near St Joseph’s Day and you just have a craving for something sweet, fried and bad for you. Try another variation with cream cheese - also delicious! Dip them in jam or Nutella for extra divine yumminess. And when all else fails, you can always comfort yourself with the good old deep-fried Maltese jam doughnut. Enjoy!