Growing up, I was very close to my mom’s mom. She lived four blocks north of us, and she played an integral role in my life. Almost every Friday night, without fail, my mom and I would go out for dinner with gram, and catch up on the week’s events. Many times we would go to a diner nearby, and other times it was to a family owned pizzeria and Italian restaurant where everything was made from scratch. It was inevitable that, when we went to the Italian joint, our dinner was ended with a plate of zeppole. Gram had celiac’s so she never ate any, but mom and I always enjoyed this powdery, pillowy plate of fried dough. “With extra powdered sugar, please”, I would always ask.
11 years ago last week, my gram passed away. The day we went to clean out gram’s house we ordered pizza to be delivered from our stand by Italian pizzeria and restaurant. When it was delivered, along with it came a brown paper bag, with grease along the bottom. An order of zeppole. The surprise was that we hadn’t ordered any with the pizza. Gram had sent us a treat to ease our sadness!
While zeppole are not beignets, they come from the same family, in that intersection of cultures that evolved throughout Europe many centuries ago. It was synchronistic that, during the anniversary of my gram’s passing and that mysterious bag of zeppole, our challenge should be Nun’s Beignets.
It has been a while since I have made them, but they were everything I remembered zeppole to be. Custardy, and sugary, and yummmm. Pure heaven. Beignets have the added Vanilla which is not common to zeppole, but I am pretty sure that is where the differences end. My biggest challenge was moderating the oil temperature in the beginning, which I eventually settled into a rhythm on. Of course these don’t keep, so we did what any self-respecting beignet eater would do… ate them all. With a big cup of coffee. I do not regret that I had no stomach for eating anything else the rest of the day! And of course I was left with such sweet memories of a time gone by. It will not be too long before I make these again!