5 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk
For the Zeppole: Cream together the butter and 1/3 cup of sugar until very light. Add the eggs and continue to beat; the mixture will appear broken. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the vanilla extract and milk.
1 2/3 cup unbleached AP flour (plus more for sprinkling)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant polenta
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat until completely incorporated. You will have a very soft, sticky dough. Sprinkle the dough liberally with flour and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill until somewhat firm, at least 2 hours.
When the dough is completely chilled and firm, flour a board liberally and unwrap the dough. Roll to 3/4 inch thickness, using as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Using a small doughnut cutter, cut out as many zeppole as possible, re-rolling the scraps as necessary until you have used all the dough. As you cut the zeppole, place them on a baking sheet sprinkled lightly with flour ot prevent them from sticking. Return the zeppole to the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
6 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the vegetable oil to 340 degrees F. Place the remaining 2 cups of sugar in a shallow bowl. Line several baking sheets with two layers of paper towels.
2 cups sugar
Fry the zeppole a few at a time in the hot oil, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Drain on the paper towels, and while they are still hot, roll them in the bowl of sugar to coat each one completely. The zeppole may be fried up to 4 hours before serving, but they are especially good served hot.
For the Blackberry Compte: If using the blackberry compote, start this process before cooking the zeppole, as it needs time to cool.
1 quart blackberries
2 tablespoons creme de cassis
1/4 cup sugar
Place the berries in a medium saucepan and toss with the creme de cassis and sugar. Place the pan over low heat and cook slowly, shaking the pan occasionally to cook the berries evenly. When the berries have softened somewhat and released their juices, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
For the Corn Crema: If making the corn crema, this should be started well before the zeppole as it needs time to cool and then chill in the fridge.
To make the crema, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place eight 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups in a baking dish large enough to fit them with at least an inch of space between each ramekin.
2 ears fresh sweet corn
1 cup milk
2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (split lengthwise)
With a sharp knife, slice the corn kernels off the cob. Cut the cobs in half and place in a medium saucepan with the kernels, milk, cream, and 1/3 cup of the sugar. With the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla bean into the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then remove from theh heat and steep until cool.
1/3 cup sugar
8 egg yolks
pinch kosher salt
Discard the corncobs, then use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until somewhat smooth. This step may also be done in a regular blender in small batches. Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly, then set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar until completely blended. Gradually whisk half of the hot corn custard into the yolks, then pour the tempered yolk mixture back into the remaining custard and whisk well. Strain through a fine sieve, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the salt.
Stir in the corn kernels and divide the custard evenly among the ramekins. Add enough hot water to the baking dish to come one third of the way up the side of the ramekins. Cover the entire baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake the custards on the middle oven rack for about 40 minutes. The custard will be done when they are no longer liquid in the center and are completely set.
Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and discard the foil. All the custards to cool in the water bath for 20 minutes and then refrigerate until completely chilled.
Serve the zeppole simply by itself, or with the blackberry compote to jazz it up, or take the dessert to spectacular heights with the silky corn crema.