Happy Easter! The day is almost over but I wanted to share this lovely recipe with you. This pastry can be found at any Italian bakery throughout NY city and the surrounding suburbs on beginning on March 19th for the feast of Saint Joseph’s and usually through Easter.
The filling for the sfinge is either Cannoli Cream or a pastry crème that’s similar to a custard. It can be vanilla or almond flavored but my family and I favor Cannoli Cream, so that’s what I made. The shells are fried most of the time but I’ve seen them baked and I opted for baking to gain a small amount of health benefit.
At first I wasn’t happy with the results of the shells because they weren’t as tall as I thought they should be but they turned out to be quite delicious when filled. My instructions will include details about how to get a better result.
For Palm Sunday and Easter this year I made my Easter Bread (one batch for Palm Sunday and one for Easter) and Chocolate Babka in addition to these sfinge. What special Easter recipes did you make this year?
St. Joseph’s Pastry (Sfinge)
Yield: 48 pastries Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups water
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 1/2 tablespoons lard (I used all butter)
- 6 large eggs
Cannoli Cream Filling:
- 2 lb container Polly-O ricotta cheese, drained overnight in a 2-ply cheesecloth (it drains best at room temperature, provided it’s cooler than 70 degrees)
- 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
- 2/3 c mini chocolate chips; plus some additional for garnish
- powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Maraschino Cherries (optional; I didn’t use these)
Step 1: For the filling: at least three days before serving, mix drained ricotta, vanilla and sugar together. Move the mixture to a food processor (I used a small Kitchen Aid chopper) and mix until the filling is smooth and is the right consistency. Depending on the size of your food processor or chopper, you may need to mix in small batches.
Step 2: Fold in the mini chocolate chips, cover loosely and store at least overnight (better yet two nights) in the refrigerator. When ready to fill, transfer the filling to a gallon size Ziploc bag make a 1/2 inch cut on one corner of the Ziploc bag. Use as a pastry bag to fill the chocolate chip cookie cups.
Step 3: For the dough: Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; set aside. In a large saucepan or small stock pot, heat the water, butter and lard. Let the mixture come to a boil and then remove the pot from the heat. Add all the flour mixture at once and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Return the pot to a medium to high heat for about 5 minutes while still mixing continuously; this will dry out the mixture and the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove the dough from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the dough to combine before repeating with the remaining eggs.
Step 4: Using a pastry bag with a 1/2 plain nozzle (I substitute a Ziploc bag with 1/2 inch snipped off the corner), pipe 2 inch shells in circles onto a parchment lined (or greased and floured) cookie sheet and about 1 inch high, leaving 1/2 inch between each. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes until golden. Repeat with the remaining dough until finished. Cut a slit in the side of the shells so the insides don’t become soggy. Transfer the shells to cooling racks.
Step 5: For the assembly: cut the tops from the shells and pipe the Cannoli Filling using a Ziploc bag with at least a 1/2 inch opening (so the chocolate chips don’t get stuck) into the center of the shell. About 2 tablespoons depending on the size of the shell. Top with the top of the shell and then add a small amount on the top of the shell. Add a maraschino cherry if using and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with Espresso or coffee.
Recipe adapted from Ciao Italia by Mary Ann Esposito.
Tips: Store assembled pastries in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. The shells can be frozen in airtight Ziploc bags and then assembled at a later date.