Sfinci are basically fried spoonfuls of cream puff batter stuffed with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips.
The name sfinci, according to Mary Taylor Simeti in her outstanding book on Sicilian food customs, Pomp and Sustenance, derives from an Arabic word for light, or airy.
- One 15 ounce container part-skim milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons chopped semisweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel or citron
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Candied orange peel or cherries, and chopped pistachios, for garnish
To make the cream, whisk the ricotta, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the chocolate and orange peel. (Can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, heat the butter, water, and salt until the butter melts and the mixture reaches a boil.Remove from the heat.Add the flour all at once and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated.
Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat.Cook, stirring constantly and turning the dough often, until the dough begins to leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes.Transfer the dough to a large bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time beating thoroughly after each addition with a wire whisk.At first the dough will resist absorbing the eggs, but continue to beat it until smooth.
In a deep heavy saucepan or deep fryer, bring about 3 inches of oil to 370°F on a deep frying thermometer.Scoop up about 1 rounded tablespoon of the batter. With another spoon, push the batter into the oil being careful not to splash it.
Add more spoonfuls of batter but do not crowd the pan.The batter will puff up and double or triple in size.
Cook, turning the puffs often, until golden brown. When they are almost done, the sfinci will break open.
Continue to cook 1 or two minutes more. Remove the puffs with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Place them on paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter.
When all of the puffs have been fried, split them partially open like a book with a small knife.Fill with the ricotta cream. Garnish the cream with strips of candied orange peel.
Serve warm or chill until serving time.These are best eaten soon after they are made.
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