Do you know what’s the best? Donuts. And because it’s Fat Tuesday, what better time is there to celebrate deep-fried dough?
I really do love donuts and I would eat them more often if there were some good ones on my way to work. There are several gigantic Dunkin’ Donuts billboards in Times Square, and yet all we’ve got on 42nd Street, (yes, the crossroads of the world) is a Tim Horton’s. I generally try not be a hater, but Tim Horton’s coffee tastes like tomato soup, something my little sister poignantly pointed out to me. And they never have donuts with pink frosting which is completely unAmerican. A TimBit will surely do in a pinch, though.
Anyway, I’ve never made donuts, but I have made plenty of deep-fried Italian desserts in my day. I am from Long Island, after all. Anybody who grew up on Long Island will give me an “amen” when I say that all of our first crushes were on hunky 20-somethings named Joe who served us zeppole at the fireman’s fair. Any man, no matter how mousey or mafia-y, is instantly swoon-worthy when they’re wearing a snug FDNY t-shirt and serving you way under-priced deep fried delicacies covered in powdered sugar. Take note, gentlemen.
These panzerotti that I made recently really brought me back. They’re basically like ravioli donuts…. that sounds gross, but they’re awesome. Vincenza (Sicilian best friend) informed me that panzerotti are usually savory and filled with mozzarella and prosciutto (yum), but this version, filled with chocolate and a sweet ricotta mixture are quite the slam dunk.
Here’s the recipe. My one tip, especially if you’re new to deep frying, is get a thermometer! Oil that’s too hot will burn your treats, obviously, but even worse is oil that’s not hot enough! Get your oil to a stead 350 degrees before dropping in your fritters, or you’ll end up with something that’s way too greasy and probably undercooked, yuck!
Panzerotti di Ricotta
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
4 Tbsp water
2 cups ricotta
3/4 cup sugar
3 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
16 oz Corn or Canola oil, for frying
Confectioner’s sugar and ground cinnamon, for dusting
1. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, butter and water and mix into a smooth, elastic dough. You may need to add more water, 1 Tbsp at a time, for desired texture. Use your judgement – the dough should have the consistency of pizza dough.
2. To make filling, press ricotta through mesh strainer into a bowl. Add sugar and beat well until incorporated. Toss in chocolate and mix.
3. Divide dough into two pieces and roll one out until 1/4 inch thick. Place small spoonfuls of filling onto dough, evenly spaced 2 inches apart, until half of the rolled-out sheet is covered with filling. Lift other half of the dough over the dough/filling and press down around each spoonful of filling, creating small dumplings. This should feel like making ravioli!
4. Using a knife, cut dumplings into pieces. With each panzerotti, pinch firmly down along all seams to create a tight seal around the filling.
5. Repeat with remaining dough and filling until it’s all used.
6. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, heat oil, monitoring with a thermometer until it reaches 350 degrees. Then, drop in panzerotti in small batches (6-8 at a time, assuming they’re the size of small ravioli) and fry until golden (5-10 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and toss/dust with confectioner’s sugar and powdered cinnamon. Serve hot.