St. Joseph Cream Puffs (Sfingi di San Giuseppe) 16.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Mar 19, 2014

In Italy, these are traditionally made for St. Joseph's Day, March 19. The dough is often deep-fried or piped out onto baking sheets, but here's a simpler approach that requires no hot oil or pastry bag -- just a muffin tin. You could also make these in mini-muffin tins.


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Tested size: 16 servings

  • For the sfingi
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • For the filling and assembly
  • 16 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum (may substitute 1 tablespoon rum extract)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup whole or low-fat milk, or as needed
  • 16 maraschino cherries, drained, for garnish


For the sfingi: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use cooking oil spray to grease 16 muffin tin wells.

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Heat the water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the flour mixture; immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and stir vigorously, scraping the sides and bottom of the saucepan, until the dough comes together in a cohesive ball that appears fairly dry. Remove from the heat; cool for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each one into the dough before adding the next. The dough will appear wet at first, but keep stirring, and it will absorb the egg. Fold in the sugar and the orange and lemon zests.

Use a large spoon to portion the dough evenly among the 16 muffin pan wells. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the sfingi are a light golden brown, then rotate the pan(s) front to back, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes or until they are nicely puffed and golden brown. Turn out the sfingi onto a rack to cool completely..

For the filling and assembly: Combine the ricotta, sugar, almond extract (to taste), rum, cinnamon, orange zest and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. If the filling is stiff, gradually stir in milk as needed to form a smooth but fairly firm filling. (Don't add too much, or the filling will be runny.)

Slice the tops from the cooled sfingi. (Reserve the tops for a snack.) Spoon filling into each of the sfingi, mounding it slightly.

Top with a maraschino cherry. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and serve chilled.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "A Lenten Cookbook for Catholics," by Angelo Stagnaro (Tau Publishing, 2013).

Tested by Jane Touzalin.

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