St. Joseph’s Day Pastry
is traditionally made on March 19 in honor of the Italian feast of San Guiseppe, when translated is the Feast of St. Joseph who is the patron saint of ‘the family’.
There are so many different traditions throughout Italy in honor of St. Joseph but since my family ancestry is Sicilian I’m sharing their legend.
Legend has it that in the Middle Ages the Sicilians prayed to St. Joseph for rain during a drought. It is said that they promised if their prayers were answered they would prepare a feast to honor him – hence the Feast of St. Joseph or in Italian the Feast of San Guiseppe.
Growing up I remember my dad would always bring home St. Joseph’s Day pastry. Way back then pastry was not on my radar, but I do remember how everyone (that would be all the adults) enjoyed the pastries for that one week.
Today you can usually find the St. Joseph pastry throughout the year in many Italian pastry shops. The pastries are sometimes labeled ‘zeppole’ or ‘sfingi’.
So in honor of St. Joseph’s Day and my dad who LUVs St. Joseph’s pastry I tried my hand at making the pastry.
When I googled for a recipe I was surprised to learn that the pastry is a pate choux, or a cream puff pastry which I make all the time. I then needed to figure out what kind of filling I was going to use.
The traditional filling for St. Joseph’s Day pastry is a pastry cream. However since my family prefers cannoli cream filling that’s what I made, you can find my recipe here. I’ve included the pastry cream filling recipe below. I’m sure there are many who enjoy pastry cream – it’s nice to have a choice.
I had to perfect using a pastry bag which I have always shied away from but I was determined. After 2 or 3 tries it was a breeze, anyone can tackle the pastry bag challenge with a little help from good ol’ Martha.
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1½ tsp. sugar
- 1 cup AP flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup sugar (divided into ¼ cup ea.)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 TBLS. butter cut into cubes
- In a medium size saucepan add the water, butter, salt and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil.
- When it boils remove from the heat and add the flour all at once stirring vigorously until the flour is well incorporated (takes approx. 30 seconds). Add the pan back to the heat and continue stirring for a minute to evaporate some of the moisture.
- Remove pan from heat and add one egg at a time. Stirring vigorously to incorporate the egg with the flour mixture, continue for the remaining eggs.
- Return pan to heat and stir for another 30 seconds to evaporate some of the moisture.
- Spoon the pastry dough into the pastry bag and pipe onto the parchment paper.
- Pipe the dough into circles - go around twice for each circle to give it height (so you can slice it in half to fill).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes - REDUCE heat to 375 degrees and continue baking for 20-25 minutes, depending on thickness.
- Cool on pan for 10 minutes then remove to rack.
- Cut the pastry circles in half and fill with pastry cream.
- In a medium size saucepan combine milk, ¼ cup of sugar, vanilla & salt. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.
- In medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in ½ cup of the hot milk into the egg yolks, continue to slowly add the remaining milk to the eggs - continually stirring until the mixture is well blended.
- Add this mixture back to the saucepan, stirring constantly continue to cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. This should take about 2-4 minutes - depending on your stove.
- Remove from heat and pour mixture into a bowl - add in the butter and using a mixer beat mixture until the butter melts and the mixture cools - approx. 5 minutes -You can use a stand mixer for this if you have one.
- Cover mixture with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours before using.
- When ready to use the cream whisk briskly to smooth the cream (or use a mixer)
For me cooking and baking is memory making. Often when I remake a recipe from my childhood it sparks a vivid memory.
When I was making this recipe it brought me way back. My dad always brought home St. Joseph’s pastry in March. I could hear my dad’s voice when he came home with the pastry saying “I got the St. Joseph’s, they were just made!”