Friday, December 04, 2009

Sfinci di San Giuseppe - Sicilian Doughnuts

Sfinci di San Giuseppe are a speciality of Palermo, Sicily and are generally referred to as Sicilian Doughnuts. Traditionally, they would have been made on the 19th March - which is the holy day of San' Giuseppe (St Joseph) but now they are served all year round and are a popular Christmas treat.

Most of the recipes I've seen involve yeast so I was quite intrigued by the latest edition of Italianicious where there version had no yeast whatsoever. To solve this I turned to the pages of the bible of Italian sweets, L'Italia Dei Dolci, published by Slow Food this gives you the authentic and traditional methodology for just about every classic Italian sweet you can think of. Sure enough Sfinci are in the book and surprisingly the recipe from Italianicious is on the mark. The only difference is that strutto would normally be used and this recipe uses butter. If you can make choux pastry, you'll be able to make these.

Sfinci di San GiuseppeĀ© by Haalo

Sfinci di San Giuseppe

60 grams butter
250mls/1 cup water
185 grams plain flour
3 eggs
finely diced candied orange peel

Put the butter and water into a pan and place on a medium heat - bring to the boil.
When boiling and the butter has melted, remove from the heat and add the flour, stir quickly until the mixture forms a ball and then place back on a low heat. Cook for a minute - stirring constantly.

Place the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool.

When cool add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated before adding the next. Finally stir through the diced candied orange peel.

They are now ready to cook or you could cook them later - make sure you cover the mixture with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

People that have an aversion to deep frying won't like the next bit but these must be deep fried.

The dough expands quite a bit during frying so you'll only need to use about a tablespoon of dough for each doughnut. I use a very small ice-cream scoop to help deliver the correct portion of dough.

As they cook, they will expand in stages, so it's important not to overcrowd your pan. When golden and cooked through, place them on paper towels to drain and then toss them when still warm through caster sugar.

Sfinci di San GiuseppeĀ© by Haalo

The Sfinci have a surprising light texture, the interior isn't doughy at all, it's actually aerated. For an authentic presentation you would serve them topped with a mixture of ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate chips - this would then be garnished with strips of candied orange, pistachio slivers and a dusting of icing sugar.

I've gone for a different approach and served them with strawberry curd. However you make them, you're going to find yourself having to make a lot more!


  1. Yum! My Nana made these. We didn't know anyone else who ate them. She always made them in crazy, irregular shapes but we didn't know the difference. I haven't had these in years. Brought back a nice memory, thanks!

  2. Interesting... my family makes these but a lot different with yeast and raisins... we are from the other side of sicily near messina...

  3. they look yummy.


  4. Thanks VB - I think you are supposed to just pinch the dough to form the shapes but I can't help it, I like even sizes. I am sure they must have been so delicious

    Hi Ginny - that's the nature of Italian food, what is traditional for one, isn't for another. I'm sure how ever they are made they would still be wonderful

    Thanks Paz - they were too yummy ;)

  5. Thanks for the recipe - my nonna made these - she was from Lipari - but she used an old fashioned schooner glass to measure the flour - so I never knew the actual weight needed. She also used to pour a light drizzle of golden syrup (poor man's honey she called it) and a sprinkle of cinnamon over the platter of sfinci.

  6. WOW- this recipe is really in the shadows - I rarely see it anywhere! It's the same as Mom and Grandma's! We omit the orange - no one likes it. Mom used to make them for me when I was home from college.... [sigh]

  7. Yes, My mum was from Canneto, Lipari and she made them like this, minus the peel!

  8. I will be making these tomorrow on St. Joseph's Day for my dad who's 85 his name is Joe. I have had this tradition since I was a young girl. My grandparents were from Palermo Italy and we eat them every year. I use ricotta in my recipe and have never used orange will have to try it! Love this Italian traditional treat!


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