Silent Bob has just come into the house with his nose twitching like a rabbit's. He roams in and out of the kitchen where I have just done a photo shoot on these warm soffioni di ricotta. I can hear him pacing around from my spot at the computer in the living room.
"Do we still have some strawberries from that batch I brought in yesterday ?", he shouts from the kitchen.
"Yes ! I hulled them and put them in a bowl on the bottom shelf in the fridge, honey.", I reply.
"Are these little puffs out here for looking at or for eating ?", he asks.
"They are ready to eat ! Go for it!, I smile as I answer.
" ... And would the strawberries go well with them?", SB queries.
"You're a genius, dear!", I shout.
Soffioni di ricotta are light and airy pastries made with a dough that resembles pasta dough and a fluffy ricotta, lemon, and egg filling that is much lighter than cheesecake or custard. I made them today to honor the women of Enoteca Maria, this little Italian restaurant that I ate in when SB and I visited Staten Island last weekend. We didn't have dessert that evening, but I just know that this is the type of dessert that one of those talented Nonnas would plop down in front of the guests with a flute of Prosecco or a small glass of expresso. Mmm! Mmm!
I had mine plain the first time out of the gate, but those strawberries are calling me! That SB had an inspired idea! Back to the recipe, though.
The dough is made like a pasta dough, kneaded for five minutes, and allowed to rest for a half hour. It's a very thick and heavy dough, and since it must be rolled to a 2mm thickness, I hauled out my pasta roller, divided the dough into four chunks, flattened them out and rolled them through the pasta machine. Then, I just plopped them on the counter and used a crinkle cut roller to cut the 4-inch squares. They get tucked into buttered muffin tins.
The filling for the soffioni di ricotta is very easy to make. Think eggs, ricotta, lemon zest, and a bit of lemon juice and sugar. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks and folded into the lemony ricotta mixture. This makes for a lighter than air fluff that gets spooned into the shells and baked until golden and puffed.
Of course, these puffs fall back on themselves like little souffles, but that's okay. They remain so light and softly sweet with a real lemony flavour. They get dusted generously with powdered sugar just before they are served. The crust is crunchy and softly sweet and the filling is the perfect foil ... drizzled with some macerated strawberries, one wouldn't need whipped cream ... just sayin'.
Soffioni di Ricotta
a recipe found in La Cucina Italiana magazine
Makes 8 small pastries
2 c. flour
¼ c. granulated sugar
2 pinches salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. olive oil
Making the Dough:
- Whisk together the flour sugar and salt in a deep bowl. Make a well in the center of the mound.
- Crack the eggs and add the olive oil to the well.
- Use a fork to break the egg yolks and begin to gently scramble the eggs and oil together, gathering in small amounts of flour from the walls of the well.
- Continue mixing in the flour to make a thick straggly dough.
- When about half the flour is incorporated into the dough ball, turn the whole mess out onto a cool kneading surface and use your hands to knead the rest of the flour into the dough. It is hard to do, as this is a heavy dry dough, but just keep kneading. It will come together in about five minutes of forceful kneading.
- Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it rest for half and hour while you make the filling for the pastries.
Pastry filling Ingredients:
½ lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, separated
2 rounded tbsp. sugar
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp. lemon juice
Soft butter for greasing the muffin tins
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting the completed pastries
Making the Filling and Assembling the Pastries:
- Whisk the ricotta, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a deep bowl.
- In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Add half the egg whites to the ricotta mixture and fold together gently.
- Repeat with the other half of the egg whites.
- Set the mixture aside while you roll out the pastry shells.
- When the dough has finished resting, divide it into four equal amounts.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F and place a rack in the center of the oven space.
- Using a rolling pin or better yet a pasta rolling machine, roll each dough clump to 2 mm thickness. Cut 4-inch squares.
- Use the soft butter to grease an 8 muffin tin generously.
- Tuck the squares of dough into the bottoms and up the sides of the muffin cavities. Be careful not to poke holes in the pastry dough.
- Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pastry shells and tuck the corners back over top the pastry.
- Bake the pastries for 2 to 25 minutes or until they are golden, crispy, and puffed up beautifully.
- Remove from the oven and let the pan sit on a rack for ten minutes. Then, gently swirl the pastries in their muffin cavities to loosen them and gently remove to a pretty platter.
- Serve them warm, sprinkled generously with confectioner’s sugar.