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Catholic Recipe: St. Joseph's Cream Puffs V


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sweet butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or vanilla  Optional:
  • 1 tablespoon candied orange peel, or other candied fruit peel
  • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling on top  Filling:
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup grated milk chocolate, or mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios 
  • Details

  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: • • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: 15+
  • Origin: Italy

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Also Called: Sfinge di San Giuseppe

St. Joseph is beloved in every county, but it is from Italy that we have some delicious recipes for this feast day. We can have a break from Lenten fasting with this Solemnity celebrated in the middle of Lent. A favorite is the Italian St. Joseph's cream puffs or Sfinge di San Giuseppe, a must for the traditional St. Joseph's Altar or Table.


For the cream puffs: Place the water, butter, granulated sugar, lemon rind, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and as soon as the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat. Add the flour all at once, stirring constantly and vigorously.

Return the pan to the heat, and stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook a little longer, until you hear a slight crackling or frying sound. Remove the pan from the heat, and cool slightly.

Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure that each egg is thoroughly blended into the mixture before you add the next. Keep stirring until the dough is smooth and thoroughly blended into the mixture before you add the next. Keep stirring until the dough is smooth and thoroughly blended. Add the Cognac or vanilla. Cover the dough and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls on a buttered cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between the Sfinge. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool. So that the cream puffs will be crisp, fill them just before serving if possible.

For the filling: Mix the ricotta, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, pistachios, and peel, if using it. Cut each cream puff horizontally part way through the middle and fill with the mixture.

Optional: Just before serving sprinkle Sfinge with confectioners' sugar. Keep them refrigerated, if not serving immediately.

Variation: The cream puffs can be deep-fried instead of baked. For deep-frying, heat the oil to 375º F. Drop the puff mixture 1 tablespoon at a time into the oil. Cook a few at a time, keeping the puffs separate. Fry until golden brown. Drain the puffs on paper towels. Serve them hot, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Other kinds of fillings can be used, such as vanilla custard or sweetened whipped cream (to which a little vanilla or a liqueur may be added).

Recipe Source: Continual Feast, A by Evelyn Birge Vitz, Ignatius Press, San Francisco , 1985
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