Ricotta St. Martin’s Cookies or Sammartinelli embody the essence of Palermo’s pastry tradition, celebrating St. Martin’s Day with a flavor that evokes centuries-old traditions.
These soft and fragrant cookies, soaked in rum or moscato, reveal a heart of ricotta cream that makes them irresistible.
The final touch of powdered sugar and cinnamon is a tribute to the senses, an invitation to discover the autumn flavors of Sicily in every bite.
In Palermo’s pastry shops, November 11 becomes a showcase of culinary pleasure, with Biscotti di San Martino the undisputed protagonists.
In their simplest form or enriched by the creaminess of ricotta, they represent a staple of local gastronomy, a must for lovers of sweets and tradition.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- about 2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
- Cinnamon to taste
- 7/8 cup warm water
- A pinch of saltFor the syrup for the San Martino sweets:
- 3.5 fl oz water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup rum for bakingFor the filling of the Biscotti di San Martino:
- 2 cups of ricotta cream***
- 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chipsFor the decoration of the “sammartinelli”:
- Powdered sugar to taste
- Cinnamon to taste
First of all, let’s see how to prepare St. Martin’s soft cookies.
In a small bowl, pour one part warm water and dissolve the brewer’s yeast in it. On a clean work surface, place the sifted flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon powder and anise seeds in a heap.
Then pour the lard and dissolved yeast into the center and start kneading with your hands, gradually pouring in the rest of the warm water.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, firm and elastic like bread dough.
At this point portion the dough for St. Martin’s cookies.
Create balls weighing 50-60 g and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Then allow the cookies to rise for about 3 hours in a warm, dry place, covered with a clean cloth.
After heating the oven to 180°C (350°F), put them in the oven and let them bake for about 30 minutes, until they are golden brown and soft to the touch.
Be careful not to overcook them, otherwise you risk getting dry St. Martin’s cookies, similar to traditional Palermo St. Martin’s cookies.
Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.
In the meantime, prepare the filling and sauce for the St. Martin’s cookies.
For the latter, just mix the water, sugar and rum in a cup; while for the filling, just add the chocolate chips to the ricotta cream.
*** SICILIAN RICOTTA CREAM RECIPE****
- 2 cups of ricotta cheese (original Palermo-style recipe called only sheep’s ricotta)
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
In a fairly large bowl combine the sugar and ricotta cheese, mixing the two ingredients with a fork.
Then let the mixture sit for a few hours so that the sugar dissolves.
At this point, it will be necessary to sift the sweet ricotta.
As a rule, this should be done manually, either by sifting the ricotta over a fine-mesh sieve or by using a common sifter.
An alternative that reduces time and – above all – effort is to use an electric beater instead: however, this tool tends to incorporate air into the ricotta cream, which if not employed immediately tends to retract.
Therefore, choose the method that best suits your needs.
The important thing in all cases is that you do not leave lumps; only then will the ricotta cream really be ready. At the end, you can add chocolate chips to further enrich your sweet ricotta filling.
Use and storage of ricotta cream
Sicilian ricotta cream is ideal for filling cakes and pies. The must is to use sweet ricotta for the filling of Sicilian cannoli, but there are plenty of recipes with sheep’s milk ricotta in pastries: click here to discover them all.
If you run out of product, don’t worry. Ricotta cream can be frozen for reuse at a later date. In fact, the only way to freeze ricotta in the freezer is to just make sweetened ricotta. So if you have leftover ricotta in the fridge, you have one more excuse to make this sweet recipe!
Let us then return to our St. Martin’s Day cookies.
Make sure the pastries are cold, then cut them in two horizontally.
Dip the two insides in the syrup, spread the filling on the bottom bases and reassemble the ricotta cookie. Arrange them on a tray and dust the filled Sammartinelli with a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The St. Martin’s cookies with ricotta cheese are ready to serve. Accompany them with a small glass of moscato or sweet wine.
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