I get excited many times during the year in anticipation of a Holiday or Celebration and the foods that are part of that season, day, or time. One of my most favorite is the annual Catholic celebration of the Feast of St.Joseph which Southern Italian culture has created a beautiful day of Springtime foods only eaten on March 19. San Giuseppe is especially revered in Sicily where he is one of their most beloved patrons. Huge Celebrations in all the towns and homes flow out into the streets and special savory and sweet foods are made. No where in Italy is this celebration as exhuberant as in Sicily, but don’t worry, the rest of Italy celebrates it with many different sweet and savory treats as well This post deals with my most favorite of them all, the SFINGI DI SAN GIUSEPPE. Sfingi is a term meaning a fried sponge of dough. Sfingi are also the name for what people in Naples called Zeppole. However….when the talented Sicilian pastry makers started immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s some things made some changes. I have no idea why or how this happened because at St.Joseph’s time all Italian Pastry shops made 2 types of “St.Joseph’s Pastry”. They are now sold from the beginning of Lent thru Easter with peak production on and about March 19. The two types are the Sicilian Sfingi which has morphed into a large, sometimes oversized cream puff, baked then filled with a Ricotta Cannoli Cream. The top of the Cream puff is placed back on and a then a rosette of Cannoli cream added. To this crushed pistachio or nuts, candied cherry and orange peel are added. Crowned with powdered sugar. The other pastry is from Naples, and is called the ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE. Using a pastry bag and a rosette tip a circle of the cream puff dough is piped out then slid into hot oil and fried. It’s split and a Vanilla Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticceria) is added to the center, The top is placed on it and a rosette of the cream topped with a sour cherry (Amarena) goes on to finish it. Both are amazing. But so strange that the formerly fried SFINGI is now the baked one. Whatever. All delicious. This is a dish that my mom made. She loved making cream puffs. She filled them with all sorts of fillings, puddings, whipped cream, italian creams, ricotta cream, chocolate cream. But for San Giuseppe she made the Sicilian sfingi (she was not Sicilian!) and I watch intently as she went thru each step. Let’s push this even further as in Palermo they leave the top off, sort of a Sfingi on the Half Shell. These are the ones I”m showing you here. Let’s go into the kitchen and bake!!!
First, you need to make the filling. CREMA DI RICOTTA SICILIANA
1 lb DRAINED WHOLE MILK RICOTTA
1/2 CUP CONFECTIONERS SUGAR
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon or one very very very SMALL drop of Cinnamon Oil.
3 tbs. fine chopped CITRON
2 tbs. small semi sweet CHOCOLATE CHIPS
BLEND TOGETHER UNTIL VERY SMOOTH AND CHILL OVER NIGHT
SHELLS: GLI SFINGI
1 CUP WATER
1/2 CUP BUTTER OR SHORTENING
1/8 TEASPOON OF KOSHER SALT
1 cup TIPO 00 ITALIAN FLOUR OR 1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE UNBLEACHED FLOUR
GARNISH: CANDIED CHERRIES CANDIED ORANGE PEELS CRUSHED PISTACHIOS
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a cup of water to a boil. Add the butter or shortening and the salt. Stir until the butter/shortening is melted and comes back to the boil. Lower the heat and gently add all the flour in at once and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the flour leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat. Now add one egg and beat into the hot mixture until it’s fully incorporated. Do the same with the next two eggs beating thoughroughly after each egg addition. Place a parchment sheet on a baking pan. PLace the mixture in a pastry bag and press out a mound about 2 inches wide. Or form the same with tablespoons. Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven. Then lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on racks. When cool slice in half.. Remove any wet dough from the inside it there is any. Fill each 1/2 with the Ricotta cream. Top with a candied cherry, slice of candied orange peel and some crushed Pistachio nuts. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 doz. BUONA FESTA DI SAN GIUSEPPE!!!