Zia Maria's Sfingi Recipe
This simple dessert is one that I’ve always loved. Simple yet so so many different names and variations to it, our Calabrese neighbours even make them savoury! Sfingi in Sicily, Zeppole in Calabria, Fritelle in Lombardia, Le Crispelle’ in Abruzzo and in Sardegna they’re called Frisciolas. Whatever you call them it’s simply fried dough rolled in sugar so whats not to love about them.
I put the word out that I was road testing these and was shocked to hear the variances in ingredients. Caroline from Lipari said we add rosemary. Jennie from Filicudi said she adds pumpkin. Angela from Messina adds cauliflower!!! I had never heard that before. Rosanne from Panarea dips them in vino cotto. Most of my Calabrese friends like the savoury ones with anchovies. My aunt adds fennel seeds. Beautiful comare Lina from Agirà use to add bits of apple!!!
My cousin Carmel adds chocolate bits, my friend Mario adds ricotta, my mum had me even try a recipe with mash potato, the ones with potato are great to make if you aren’t eating them on the spot as the potato gives it that dense texture that still makes them quite edible even after a few hours. The ricotta or mash potato added makes them a lot more dense. I was so so excited to hear all these options so I was on a mission to find my favourite.
The votes are in and ultimately I have to say I prefer the original classic simple ones that are filled with sultanas and are light with airy pockets. I have given you two options to try. Of course this is my Zia Maria’s recipe, she’s my biggest influence these days with cooking. My friend’s Aunt, Zia Jole from Francavilla has a different version, she adds 2 egg yolks and sugar to the recipe I’ve chosen.
That is what I love about food, from town to town everyone has their own mix on recipes. There really is no right or wrong, most of the time I find the majority of people love what they were brought up on. Perhaps it’s a familiar taste & that takes them back to their fond memories of their childhood and brings them comfort. This is part of the reason why I began doing food tours, it gives you a chance to learn about all these great traditional recipes or ways of cooking. I founded this tour company to give people access to locations that most tour operators don’t visit or even think of taking people.
So give these a try, have a play with the different ingredients and see what taste best to you.
- 1/2 kilo 00 flour
- 20 grams of fresh yeast (or 2 teaspoons instant yeast)
- 400 mls of tepid water
- 1 pinch of salt (literally a pinch, I’d call it a 1/3 of a teaspoon)
- 150 grams sultanas
- Oil for deep frying, canola or olive oil. The amount will vary depending on the size of your pot.
- Sugar and cinnamon to roll Sfingy in once cooked. Amount depends on how strong you like the flavour of cinnamon.
Optional to add to mix
Add 2 egg yolks & 1 teaspoon of sugar.
- Place flour in a bowl
- Add a pinch of salt
- In a cup dissolve the yeast in 200 mls of tepid water
- Add to mixture (at this point you could add the optional extra, yolks & sugar)
With your hands mix it really well almost lifting all the dough up and out of the bowl and back down into the bowl in a very rapid motion for a good 5 minutes. Continue till the dough is soft and elastic. Yes, it’s a great workout!
Let it sit for an hour, make sure it’s nice and warm in the kitchen. If it’s winter crank up the heat or that dough is never going to rise. Once it’s doubled in size just gently break the rise and fold through the dough gently with your hands.
Heat up some oil making sure it’s at least 5 fingers deep, you want the Sfingy to rise to the top and float nicely so they cook all the way round. When the oil is HOT with a small spoon scoop up some of the dough and slide it off the spoon and into the oil with your finger, making sure to not touch the hot oil.
Remove the Sfingi from the oil when golden and place on a paper towel. Roll the Sfingy in sugar & cinnamon mix.
Recipe should make approximately 20-30 Sfingi, depends on size.