Italians call them zeppole and Sicilians call them sfinci. But no matter what you call them, these little fried doughnuts are delicious. If you’ve ever been to an Italian street fair, zeppole is one of the most popular foods served. Where I grew up – the most famous Italian street fair is the Feast of San Genaro, in New York City’s Little Italy. I could never eat enough of these as a child. It was real treat to bite into those hot, fresh doughnuts that just melted in your mouth.
These little round doughnuts are easy to make. They are served with either powdered sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon sugar, honey, and even ricotta. There are many varieties of sfinci. The most basic is a simple batter of flour, yeast, eggs, and milk. Sometimes potato puree is added to the batter, or in this case ricotta. There are also sfinci made with rice – equally delicious. Then there are the other-worldly, Sfinci di San Giuseppe, eaten on the Feast of Saint Joseph, which are sfinci filled with sweet ricotta cream.
This is my mother’s recipe for ricotta sfinci. They are crispy on the outside, spongy and delicate inside. The addition of ricotta and cake flour makes these doughnuts light and super moist. You won’t be able to resist them.
ITALIAN RICOTTA DOUGHNUTS: SFINCI DI RICOTTA
(ZEPPOLE DI RICOTTA)
Makes approximately 2 dozen.
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ricotta
5 large eggs
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar for dusting
1. HEAT THE OIL: Pour enough vegetable oil in a deep fryer or deep frying pan to a depth of 3-inches. Heat oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. MAKE THE BATTER: In a medium bowl, add both flours, baking powder, and salt, and stir to combine. Set aside. In a large mixer bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon rind on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until batter is just smooth. Do not overbeat. The mixture should resemble thick pancake batter.
3. FRY THE DOUGHNUTS: Using 2 spoons, carefully drop a heaping spoonful of the batter into the hot oil. Fry several doughnuts at a time in batches, being careful not to overcrowd them. Turn several times while frying. Cook approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar or roll in cinnamon sugar and serve immediately.