Every year my Mom would celebrate my Father’s name day with a batch of Cream Puffs filled with ricotta cream. She called them Sfingi di San Giuseppe. The dough itself (pate choux) is a kind of kitchen miracle. First you boil a cup of water with 8 tablespoons of oil and a half teaspoon of salt. Then you dump in a cup of flour. Instead of turning into a lumpy mess, the dough comes together into a smooth,shiny ball. You take it off the heat and stir in four eggs, one at a time. With the addition of each egg it looks like you are going to end up with a lumpy mess and then it suddenly comes together. Then you add the next egg…
You heat the oven to an impossibly high 450 degrees. Drop the batter by spoonful onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. They puff up magically creating crispy exteriors and empty centers. Cut a small slit in each to allow steam to escape so the outsides don’t get soggy.
I always loved the irregular shapes they form, individual as snowflakes. You really need to let them cool before filling.
I use a sweetened ricotta filling (one pound of drained ricotta to 3/4 cup powdered sugar, mixed well in the food processor) and then flavored with a teaspoon of vanilla or some amaretto. If you like you can dd finely chopped candied orange peels and tiny morsels of chocolate.
I could eat this cream for breakfast on toast. Let it set up in the refrigerator while the cream puffs cool. Then just split each puff open and spoon in a nice dollop of cream. Put them on a platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar. This is the first year my dad isn’t around for his name day. I’ve made a batch for my son, his namesake. And so the tradition goes on.