Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci
Is there anyone among you who doesn’t know Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci? Yes?
Close your eyes today, I am taking you to Palermo to let you discover one of the most popular Sicilian pastries.
Imagine bringing together in a single pastry the most typical flavors of the Sicilian tradition. Fresh ricotta, cherries, and candied orange peel, ending with chopped crunchy pistachios.
Did I tickle your imagination? Well, then I can say … that was my goal!
Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci (in Italian “Sfinci di San Giuseppe”), are a small confectionery masterpiece. Made of bright colors, different flavors, and textures that have a truly enviable power: delight your palate at the first taste.
When you bite a Sfingia di San Giuseppe you will fall in love with it. You will feel a blast of flavors in your mouth.
The traditions related to Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci.
Throughout Italy, the feast of St Joseph represents not only Father’s Day but also the first holiday of the spring period.
Among the many traditions linked to this day, there is one in particular: the preparation of traditional St. Joseph’s pastries.
Once these pastries were prepared at home by mother’s expert hands, but year after year we begin to lose this tradition.
Nowadays almost all people are always in a hurry and do not have too much time to spend in the kitchen. So it is easier to go to some pastry chop and buy them already made.
In fact, if you were in Palermo, you will notice that on St Joseph’s day, there is no pastry shop that doesn’t have a queue of customers waiting outside the door.
Sicilians are losing the tradition of making the Sfinci at home, but certainly not the tradition of eating them.
The tradition and creativity of the Sicilians find in the kitchen one of its greatest expressions.
What exactly are Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci?
The Sfinci of St Joseph are deep-fried spongy puffs filled with sweetened ricotta cream, chocolate chips. Decorated with chopped pistachios, cherries, and candied orange peel.
One of the pastries that together with Cannoli and Cassata represents the pillar of Italian confectionery. In fact, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food, and Forestry has included them in the list of traditional Italian agri-food products (P.A.T)
Thanks to its delicious blend of flavors and the high demand on the market, they are no longer prepared only for St. Joseph’s feast. Nowadays we can find them in almost all Sicilian pastry shops every day of the year.
Perhaps many of you connect traditional Sicilian pastries for St Joseph’s day to the Zeppole di San Giuseppe.
But know that they are two different pastries.
What are the differences between the Sicilian Sfinci di San Giuseppe and Zeppole di San Giuseppe?
Sfinci vs Zeppole:
Although both are delicious to lick your fingers (we eat them with hands). Both are linked to the Italian tradition of March 19, the Sfinci and Zeppole are not the same pastries.
Here are the differences:
Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci, as I explained above, are pastries that are part of the Sicilian tradition.
They are a kind of deep-fried choux pastry filled with ricotta cream sweetened with chocolate chips.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe instead are part of the Neapolitan tradition.
Oven-baked or deep-fried ring doughnuts filled in the center with custard and decorated with black cherries in Syrup (in the Italian language “Amarene”).
After explaining what the Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci are, and the differences between the Neapolitan Zeppole and the Sicilian Sfinci, it’s the time you’ve been waiting for.
The ingredients to prepare Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci.
Let’s see together what are the ingredients to use.
For the filling:
Fresh Ricotta. According to the Sicilian tradition, to make the filling for Sfinci di San Giuseppe we need sheep’s milk ricotta.
Someone now will say: “Where do I find it”? Well, I believe in some well supplied Italian delicatessen shop. In case you don’t find it, know that the only alternative to do Sfinci is cow’s milk ricotta, which is easier to find.
Keep reading, soon I’ll explain how to make Sfinci di San Giuseppe recipe using cow’s milk ricotta, getting a perfect Sicilian ricotta cream.
You can also add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to flavor the ricotta (optional). Nothing else!
For the dough:
Lard ( or Butter )
Candied orange peel
Now let’s see all the steps and the mistakes to avoid when preparing Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci.
The Sicilian Sfinci di San Giuseppe recipe may seem complicated, but it is not!
To make perfect Sicilian Sfinci, there are some fundamental steps to follow.
First, when you want to prepare Sfinci, know that you have to plan it a day before.
All the ricotta we find on the market are too moist to make the cream for our recipe. To make an excellent ricotta cream, it must be as dry as possible because when we mix it with the sugar, it will release even more liquid.
If this happens, we will get a too watery ricotta cream, ruining all the work done. So it is necessary to drain the ricotta well.
Note that sheep’s milk ricotta is much drier than cow’s milk ricotta. So know that if you use cow’s milk ricotta, the draining time will be longer.
Here’s how to drain ricotta:
Place a sieve over a bowl.
Avoid that the sieve touches the bottom of the bowl, otherwise, the ricotta will remain immersed in its own liquid.
Transfer the ricotta to the sieve with the help of a spoon. Do not transfer it directly from its container because it contains a lot of liquid. So, add a little at a time leaving the excess liquid on the bottom of the container.
Use any clean cloth or kitchen paper to cover the ricotta. Add a heavy object. You can use a large jar of food or another clean object. The compression of the ricotta allows good drainage of the whey. Put the bowl with the sieve in the fridge.
If you use sheep’s ricotta leave in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. Instead, use cow’s ricotta, you have to leave it for at least 7-8 hours.
Let’s prepare the ricotta cream to fill the Sicilian St.Joseph’s day Sfinci.
After having drained the ricotta, we can proceed to prepare the cream.
Mix the ricotta with the sugar. Place the mixture in a bowl and leave it in the fridge for another 8 hours (better overnight).
The next morning, sift the ricotta through a sieve using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Collect the sieved ricotta in a bowl, add the chocolate chips (and the cinnamon powder if you prefer), stir well.
Your Sicilian ricotta cream is ready!
How to prepare the dough to make Sicilian Sfinci.
In a saucepan, put the water, lard (or butter) and salt and bring to boil.
When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the stove and add all the flour at once. Stir well with a wooden spoon to incorporate all the flour.
Return the saucepans back on the stove and cook, stirring constantly and vigorously until the dough detaches from the sides of the saucepan and begins to leave a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan. It will take about 3 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool.
When the dough is cold, transfer it in a stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment.
Beat at medium speed for about a minute, then add the eggs one at a time. Do not add the next egg if the previous one has not been completely absorbed.
Then add the baking soda and continue beating until you get a smooth, creamy and thick dough.
Frying Sicilian Sfinci.
Here we are, at the most delicate step to make the Sfinci di San Giuseppe recipe.
According to the traditional Sicilian recipe, the Sfinci should be fried in a lot of lard, but I prefer to fry them in peanut oil. To get perfect frying, I advise you to avoid using sunflower oil or canola oil.
Put the oil in a large pot and bring it to a temperature of 160 – 165 ° C.
Be careful, do not exceed 170 ° C otherwise, the Sfinci will brown too quickly and will remain raw inside(this is another mistake to avoid). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can check the temperature by immersing a wooden spoon in the oil. If the oil is at the right temperature, many small bubbles will immediately form around the spoon.
Take a few spoonfuls of dough and fry them in the oil. I recommend frying 4 – 5 sphinxes at a time, for two reasons:
1) The Sfinci during cooking triple their volume.
2) If you put too many Sfinci, the oil temperature will drop.
Fry the Sfinci turning them often or dipping them with the help of skimmer in the oil to make them brown and swell well on all sides (10-15 minutes).
Then drain them on paper towels to remove excess oil and let them cool.
Now take the ricotta cream from the fridge and with a pastry bag fill your Sfinci until the cream comes out.
Spread some cream on the surface.
Decorated with orange peels and candied cherries and sprinkle with chopped pistachio.
In this post, I tried to explain step by step how to prepare the Sicilian St Joseph’s day Sfinci.
All the flavors and aromas of Sicilian cuisine blended together to create a single pastry whose goodness will amaze you at the first taste.
Let me give you some advice: in the kitchen all the ingredients are good. To get excellent results, just have a little imagination and know-how to combine them together.
However, the most important ingredient is the love and passion with which you do things and, if something should go wrong: Patience, try and try again.
Sicilian Sfinci of St Joseph ( Sfinci di San Giuseppe)
For the dough
- 250 gr. All purpose flour
- 250 ml. Water
- 5 Eggs
- 50 gr. Lard or Butter
- 4 gr. Salt
- 1 Tsp Baking soda
- 1 lt. Peanut oil for frying
For Ricotta cream
- 800 gr. Fresh Ricotta
- 250 gr. Granulated Sugar
- 120 gr. Chocolate chips
- Candied orange peel
- Candied cherries
- Chopped pistachios
To prepare the ricotta cream
- Begin the preparation of the ricotta one day before.
- Put the ricotta to drain as I described in the article above
- After the time of draining, place the ricotta in a bowl and mix with sugar.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.
- The next morning sift the ricotta through a sieve, collect the ricotta in another bowl, add chocolate drops, mix well and put it back in the fridge.
Prepare the dough
- In a saucepan over medium-low heat put water, salt and butter and bring to a boil.
- When the butter has melted, remove the saucepan from the stove and add all the flour at once.
- Stir well with a wooden spoon to incorporate all the flour.
- Place the saucepan back on the stove and cook stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.
- The dough is ready when it detaches from the sides of the saucepan and leaves a light film on the bottom of the saucepan.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and let it cool.
- Put the dough in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment(or work by hand with a wooden spoon) and beat the dough for 1 minute.
- Add the eggs one at a time. Do not add the next egg if the previous one has been completely absorbed.
- Add the baking soda to the dough and continue beating until you get a smooth, creamy and thick batter.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil until it reaches 160-165 °, then fry the dough by spooning it in the saucepan.
- Do not fry more than 3-4 sfinci at a time so as not to lower the oil temperature and not to risk of not having enough space when the sfinci begins to grow.
- Turn often the sfinci to brown them on all sides and make them swell well. With this temperature, the sfinci will have to fry for at least 10-15 minutes.
- When they are golden brown, drain them well with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray lined with paper towels.
- When you have finished frying, let the sfinci cool.
- Take the ricotta cream from the fridge and put it in a pastry bag with a large nozzle.
- With a knife make a cut in the sfinci, then fill until the ricotta cream comes out.
- With a spoon, spread the excess cream on the surface of the sfinci.
- Place each sfinci in a paper cupcake liners.
- Garnish with a candied cherry and a candied orange peel and chopped pistachios.