'St Joseph's cookies'

These beautiful cookies are a test of the Italian (and Italian-American) pastry chef's art. They can be a simple sweet biscuit or a fritter, topped with frosting or custard, with candied fruits or whatever else makes them pretty.

Traditionally made for St Joseph's Day (19 March—there's an ancient legend that St Joseph used to make them to support the Holy Family in Egypt) they are also known as sfinci or sfinge in some areas, or scorpelle or pettole.

There are savoury versions of the beignet, called zeppole or zeppoline or zeppulelle or pasta cresciute or even bigné. Their origins may go back to the Arabs in Sicily. Now they're a common street food in Naples and the south, with a hint of anchovy, seaweed, cheese, salami or salt cod inside.

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