Of all the doughnuts in Dallas, the Italian version called zeppole served at Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern in Oak Cliff are among the best. Now they're getting a seasonal spin with the addition of Starbucks' most popular latte flavor: pumpkin.
Zeppole are basically Italian doughnut holes; Zoli's does them as a special feature every Friday night, a half-dozen for about $7. These are extra large, at least two to three bites each. No matter the flavor, they're airy and rich, with a slightly sour tang to the dough that's offset by a coating of powdered sugar and sometimes a drizzle of syrup.
But this is the first time Zoli's chef Lee Hunzinger has offered them in a pumpkin version.
"I add fresh pumpkin right to the dough," he says. "I blanch the pumpkin until it's just cooked and then roast it. I don't puree it; I just mash it, so you might get little pieces of pumpkin in each one.
"I also add the pumpkin-pie spices to the dough, like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. And then I add the spices to the powdered sugar so it has the spices on the outside as well."
The addition of pumpkin is meaningful because it changes not just the flavor but also the nature of the dough itself. "I have to tweak the hydration just a touch, for the consistency," he says. "The pumpkin adds a little weight and makes it a heavier dough."
Hunziger is a creative artist in the kitchen who endlessly tweaks his recipes. It was three months ago that the zeppole took a giant step forward for mankind when he began to add yeast to the recipe to summon the zeppole he'd grown up with in the Northeast.
"I wanted to make authentic zeppole like you'd find at the feasts in Little Italy," he says. "In my hometown, you'd go to the Knights of Columbus events, and part of the deal was walking around with a bag of zeppole. I wanted to re-create that flavor."
Every week, he gives the zeppole a twist: one week with ricotta cheese in the dough, another week mashed banana, the next week with Nutella and finished with a Nutella drizzle.
For now, there'll be no drizzle on the pumpkin zeppole, which he'll offer intermittently all the way through to Thanksgiving. "No drizzle yet, but we might try something like that, like a caramel drizzle, next week," he says.