Ricotta puffs is a term that often refers to small, bite-size pastries. The pastries, shaped like balls, are made with a dough containing ricotta cheese that is then deep-fried. They have a texture similar to a doughnut, and in fact, many people consider them to be quite similar in taste and texture to the French doughnut known as a beignet. The term ricotta puff is sometimes also used to refer to a cream puff-type pastry that is filled with a cream made from ricotta cheese.
The dough used to make ricotta puffs typically contains flour, sugar, egg, and vanilla in addition to ricotta. These ingredients tend to make the dough sticky and heavy. Consequently, when the dough is shaped into one-inch (2.5-cm) balls, it is often helpful for a person to coat his or her hands in flour first to make handling the dough a little easier. The balls of dough are fried in oil that is heated to around 375°F (about 190°C). A deep fryer is generally used, but a deep saucepan can work also.
When the balls are fried to a golden brown, they are removed from the oil, drained on a paper towel, and served immediately, while they are still warm. Although the pastries can be served plain, before serving, many people sprinkle or roll the ricotta puffs in powdered sugar. Alternatives to powdered sugar can also be used. For instance, some cooks drizzle their ricotta puffs with honey before serving. Others might choose to use chocolate syrup, while some might opt for a fruit topping, such as strawberries or blueberries.
Variations on the basic dough recipe can give the ricotta puffs different tastes and consistencies. For instance, instead of adding vanilla to the batter, some people might add anise, orange, or a different type of flavored extract to give the pastry a unique flavor. Others might choose to add chocolate chips or lemon zest into the batter, which will also give the puffs a different taste and texture.
This particular pastry is believed to have originated in Sicily, the southern island off the tip of Italy. They are particularly popular as a treat served in honor of St. Joseph on St. Joseph’s Day, traditionally celebrated on the 19th of March. Ricotta puffs are sometimes called bacio di ricotta, translated to mean a kiss of ricotta, or baci di angeli, which literally translated, means kisses of angels.
Sometimes, the term ricotta puffs is used to refer to a cream puff-type pastry. This particular pastry has the standard light and airy shell often associated with cream puffs but is filled with a cream made from ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese is generally beaten together with powdered sugar and vanilla until very smooth and then used to fill the cream puff shells. The pastries themselves are usually sprinkled with powdered sugar, chocolate, or glaze before serving.