I’m sitting here, trying to figure out what I can say about these little baci bites that isn’t entirely sentimental. Baci means “kisses” in Italian. And their full name, as bequethed by Nigella Lawson, whom I adore, is “baci di ricotta” Ricotta kisses. Isn’t that sweet?
This is not the first time I’ve spoken about my most favourite dessert (well, these and homemade icecream. and pie. it’s a threeway tie). These ricotta doughnuts are crowd pleasing, that’s for sure and I’ve made them a few times for a few different crowds. Two years ago for my twenty seventh birthday and then again soon after for what would have been my brother’s thirtieth birthday. And so now whenever I make this recipe I think of him.
I’ve been putting more photographs of David around the house, which, depending on my mood, fills me with warmth and happiness or melancholy. But it’s manageable melancholy. There’s a beautiful music piece playing in the background and I’m missing my brother. I’m a sucker for movie soundtracks and Craig Armstrong does it to me every time. Especially at the 4:10 point…actually from 3:35 until the end. This piece slays me, possibly as it takes me back to listening to the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack in my bedroom as a teenager, balling my eyes out at the beauty and romance of it and my undying love for Leo. I do still love him. Yeah, I’ve always been a feeler, a little dramatic and expressive. Music fuels this aspect of my personality. Ben sits through quite a few “performances” if ever a particularly loved piece of music comes on. I’ll mime playing the violin, piano, drums, all of the above simultaneously, building up with reckless abandon the most ridiculous and wonderful crescendo. I’m not a great musician but I appreciate greatness. And David was great. He was a beautiful pianist and composer and I struggle to be ok with the fact that the world will never fully know his talent, as he died before fully realising it. The ballet dancer in me hears pieces like this and wants to break into some grand allegro. Our current living room indeed has a grand space, which Ben calls “our ballroom”, perfect for a sudden sauté. A piano would sit there nicely, too. One day.
But back to these ricotta doughnuts and my inability to separate them from feelings of love and sadness and joy and my desperate need to live this life, all of which is intensified when hearing music like this. Nigella’s original recipe is fairly faultless. Though I have always chosen to roll them in cinnamon sugar rather than powdered sugar. And ever since my first ricotta kiss I have tasted and tweaked and pondered new variations. Most recently I was obnoxious enough to stuff them wantonly full of jam. And later, nutella. This weekend, it shall be rosewater and vanilla-bean cream. So many kisses. So much love.
Ricotta Doughnuts (baci di ricotta) with Jam and Nutella
Makes 16 little balls. In terms of portions just try to stop at one…it’s tricky. So I always make two per person. Plus if you have two different fillings that’s just ideal.
150g Spelt Flour*
2 tablespoons Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 pinches Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Oil for frying: use an oil that can withstand high heat. While I usually favour olive oil for everything (and indeed it can withstand higher heat than once thought), it is expensive to use in big quantities and really, with how infrequently I fry in this manner, I tend to go for canola oil in this recipe.
White or caster Sugar
* I have, more recently, been using wholemeal spelt flour in baking, as I feel it just sits nicely and works really well as a substitute for regular wheat plain flour. I do makes these with plain flour, too, which is what the original recipe calls for, so go that route if you prefer.
** you need one here that is not too firm but certainly not sloppy or a super smooth paste. I favour Nonna Sofia brand.
*** use a thick jam here and one without big lumps, as they will get stuck in your piping vessel and end up all over your top (see photograph below). Bonne Maman raspberry and strawberry work really well.
1. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl, and whisk to aerate and combine.
2. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the eggs briefly before adding the ricotta and vanilla and beating to combine.
3. Fold the wet ingredients through the dry ingredients until the mixture is combined, then set aside.
4. Meanwhile, set aside a large plate or two with cinnamon sugar. Throw a good few tablespoons of sugar on the plate then sprinkle a bit of cinnamon. Combine it with a spoon or fork until the sugar is as brown and cinnamony as you desire.
5. Put your game face on, it’s time to fry! But fry carefully, hot oil is no joke. I like to do this with two sets of hands, so get a friend to help. Heat a good amount of oil in a wok over medium heat. You need enough oil so that heaped soup spoonfuls of the mixture can float. Test that your oil is hot enough by dropping in a teaspoon of the batter – it should sizzle (but not aggressively so) and turn golden in ten seconds. When ready, use two soup spoons to drop rounded spoonfuls into the hot oil. I tend to fry ~ 4 at a time for about 2 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to turn them to ensure even browning. When browned and cooked on the inside (you can always cut one open and see, I do this if I make them particularly large), place the doughnuts on paper towel (to remove any excess oil) then place on the cinnamon sugar plate, rotating to coat. Repeat until all the doughnuts are cooked and cinnamon sugared.
6. Place a few heaped tablespoonfuls of filling (jam, nutella, thick custard or cream) into a piping bag (or a snaplock bag with the end snipped off). Push the filling down to the corner with the opening, then stick it in the middle of the doughnut and squeeze! If you need help getting a good spot in the doughnut, use a turkey baster (mum’s idea!)or the end of a wooden spoon to make a hole before squeezing in the filling.
7. Serve hot with espresso.