Author Notes: One of Puglia's best-loved desserts, these “Apostle's fingers” were traditionally made for winter's Carnival, but they are so good you'll want to eat them year-round. (The origins of this unusual and not entirely appealing name is still a mystery.) At its most basic, this refreshing dessert of crêpes with a sweet, lemony ricotta filling, are simply dusted with cinnamon. For those who like their sweets boozy, some limoncello or, even better, a dark, herby amaro, goes very well splashed right over the crêpes.
The delicate, slightly sweet, lemon and ricotta filling is wonderfully adaptable, with a number of traditional variations that change from kitchen to kitchen. Candied orange pieces are a classic addition. Dark chocolate, chopped or in chips, is another popular addition to the ricotta filling (a little reminiscent of Sicilian cannoli), and is almost always accompanied by a splash of some liqueur such as Borsci San Marzano, a Pugliese amaro that dates back to 1840. (Limoncello is also commonly used for this and probably easier to find too.) Almonds, toasted and then finely chopped, might replace the candied orange pieces. In Brindisi, the ricotta is flavored with coffee powder and plump, dark, liqueur-soaked cherries for a more decadent version.
Whatever you add to the filling, the important thing to keep in mind is to drain the ricotta overnight before using it for the filling. This gives you a firmer filling to work with, one that will hold its shape when rolled up in the crepes rather than oozing out.
In the most traditional recipes, the “crêpes” are made solely with eggs (sometimes just the yolks, or even just the whites) and a touch of salt, simply lightly beaten together -- a frittatina, or little frittata, if you will, which makes for a nice, naturally gluten-free option. They have to be made extremely thin -- Pugliese nonnas in the know will tell you that one egg should produce three crêpes, meaning each frittatina should be so thin you can practically see through them.
If you're going the boozy crêpe way, try dousing them with liqueur a few hours before you serve them, letting them soak up the liquid well. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon. - Emiko
Makes 8 to 10 crêpes
For the crêpes:
- 1 3/4 cup (220 grams) flour
- 3 tablespoons (20 grams) of confectioner's sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups (500 milliliters) milk
- Zest of 1 lemon or orange
- Butter, for greasing
- For the crêpes, combine the flour and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs and mix with the dry ingredients, then add the milk, bit by bit, to obtain a creamy consistency. Add the lemon zest. Heat a flat pan over medium-high heat and grease it with some butter. Pour over a ladle of batter and tip the pan to cover the surface with a very thin layer of batter to make paper-thin crepes. Cook the crepes until the top looks dry, then flip over briefly and set to the side on a plate. Continue making crepes until batter is finished.
For the filling and assembly:
- 3 cups (750 grams) fresh ricotta
- 3/4 cups (150 grams) fine sugar
- Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup 60 milliliters of liqueur, such as limoncello or Borsci San Marzano (optional)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- For the filling, leave the ricotta to drain overnight -- spoon the ricotta into a muslin cloth (or a clean linen tea towel) set in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge. The next day, discard the leftover liquid and combine the firmed ricotta, sugar, lemon zest and juice (and if desired, one of the additions mentioned in the notes, like a handful of candied orange peel or chopped dark chocolate).
- With the help of two teaspoons, spoon the filling, about an inch wide, across the centre of a crêpe. Roll it up tightly and cut the roll into three even pieces. Continue with the rest of the crepes and filling. Serve the crêpes with a splash of liqueur, if desired, and a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.
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