At our tables in Sicily on March 19 you cannot miss the Sfince di San Giuseppe, one of the most classic recipes of Sicilian pastry and typical dessert of Father’s Day.
The name sfincia derives from the Latin spongia, sponge, the term originates from the particular shape of this cake which looks like a soft and irregularly shaped pancake, just like a real sponge.
The origin of this dessert is very ancient, so much so that it appears, albeit with different names, in the Bible and the Koran. It seems to be the evolution of Arab or Persian breads or sweets fried in oil.
An old tradition tells that in the past, the sfincia was prepared by the mother-in-law for the daughter-in-law to try to “soften” the relationship between the two. Traditionally difficult relationships due to the jealousy of the two women towards their son and husband respectively.
There is another tradition that seems to date back to the Roman era. It is said that St. Joseph, who fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, to keep the “sacred” family in a foreign land had become a seller of pancakes.
This simple pancake has been transformed into a delicious dessert by the skill of the nuns of the monastery of the Stigmata in Palermo. They are the ones who have handed it down to Palermo pastry chefs and who have dedicated it to the “Saint of the Humble”, as the ingredients used for their preparation are classically ‘humble’.
Originally the recipe was quite simple but the Palermo pastry chefs made this dessert even tastier by enriching it with some local products: ricotta, chopped pistachios, candied orange peel, cinnamon powder.
Sfincia di San Giuseppe is a Traditional Agri-food Product (PAT) recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Recipe for Sfincia di San Giuseppe
Ingredients for the dough
- Water 500 ml
- Flour type OO 400 gr
- Butter or Lard 130 gr
- Salt 7 gr
- 10 medium eggs
Ingredients for the dough
- Sheep ricotta 600 – 700 gr
- Powdered sugar 100 gr
- Dark chocolate drops 100 gr
Ingredients for decorating and frying
- Seed oil 2 lt
- Chopped pistachios 50 gr
- 10-15 Candied cherries
- Candied orange 50 gr
In a saucepan, put the water, lard / butter and salt, and heat. Once it boils, add the flour all at once and mix the ingredients on heat for at least 2-3 minutes until the mixture comes can be separated from the pan.
Allow the dough to cool and either put it in a planetary mixer with a leaf hook or work by hand with a wooden ladle.
Turn the dough for 1 minute, then add the eggs one at a time. Be careful not to add the next egg if the previous one has not been completely absorbed first. You will get a smooth, creamy and thick batter.
Bring the oil to 160-165° for frying and pour the mixture into the saucepan by spoonfuls. Be careful not to fry more than 3-4 sfincie at a time so as not to lower the oil temperature too much.
With this temperature, the sfincie will have to fry for at least 8 – 10 minutes. When they are golden brown, drain them well with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray with absorbent kitchen paper. Let the ‘sfincie’ cool down.
Then take the ricotta cream and the chocolate chips, stir for a few moments with a ladle and then cover the surface of the sfincie with a spoon full of the mix. Garnish each sfincia with chopped pistachios, a candied cherry and a candied orange peel.