I first tasted sheep’s-milk ricotta cheese at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, a delightful dairy farm in upstate New York where the milk comes from sheep (instead of cows) and the shepherds are llamas (instead of dogs). Sheep’s milk is richer, higher in calcium, and sweeter than cow’s or goat’s milk, and it makes wonderful cheese. These beignets have a wonderful crisp gold-brown crust and tender insides, like a dessert version of hush puppies.
You can use any good-quality ricotta for this recipe, or even a mild fresh goat cheese. It adds moisture and a little richness to the dough, binding the ingredients together without making it wet.—Gale Gand and Julia Moskin
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese, preferably sheep’s milk (see above)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg white
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable oil, for frying
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
1. Combine all the ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until smooth. Roll into 1 1/2-inch balls (the size of a walnut) and set aside on a plate. Refrigerate until ready to cook. (See Note)
2. Just before serving, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pot fitted with a deep-frying thermometer to 365°F (185°C). Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, fry the balls until golden brown all over, moving them around in the oil to make sure they cook and brown evenly.
3. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels or brown paper. Repeat with remaining beignets, making sure to let the oil return to 365°F (185°C) between batches. Dust the beignets with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.
Note: The dough balls can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.
Recipe © 2003 Gale’s Bread and Butter, Inc. and Julia Moskin. All rights reserved.