Today we're having Zeppoli di San Giuseppe, or St. Joseph's Cream Puffs. This is technically not an Easter treat, but since today is La Festa di San Giuseppe, or St. Joseph's Day, I really wanted to share it with you.
If you are interested in learning more about St. Joseph and the history behind La Festa di San Giuseppe, there are numerous others who have already written much about him more eloquently than I can, including here and here and here.
Almond Pastry Cream
1/3 cup or cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the water, add the butter and lard, and when melted, remove pan from the stove and add the flour mixture all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon, then return the pan to medium-high heat, beating the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon or hand mixer to blend each in well before adding the next egg.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filling. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and butter over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly add the eggs, beating well. Return the mixture to the heat for just a few seconds to cook the mixture, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Pour the filling into a bowl, add the almond extract, and blend. Cover with buttered waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve, use a small knife to cut off the top third of each cream puff. Add about 1/4 cups filling (more if the puffs are larger), replace the tops, and put puffs on a decorative platter. Dust with confectioner's sugar and pipe a dollop of cream on top. Top with a cherry half and serve immediately.