About the Recipe
Piticas are crisp, thin, deep-fried pastries, drizzled generously with a warm honey syrup fragrant with orange-blossom water. These Rhodes Island-style Sephardic pastries are then topped with crushed pistachios or almonds, crunchy toasted sesame seeds and dusted with cinnamon.
Piticas make a magnificent dessert stacked high on a platter. They are sensational served on their own or with a scoop of your favourite ice cream and berries.
Pastry puffs are quite easy to make. My 13-year-old grandson, Nico, surprised his family making them for the first time in NYC and proudly sent me a photo. We have, I guess, found another way for my family to connect with such nostalgia through sharing recipes of our favourite foods, while we remain separated continents away during these times....
They are traditionally made for Hanukkah too!
2 cups cake flour, as needed
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil 2⁄3 cup water
For deep-frying: vegetable oil
For the honey syrup: 2⁄3 cup sugar 1 cup honey 2⁄3 cup water 2 strips of orange zest
1 tbsp lemon juice 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
For the topping: 3⁄4 cup crushed unsalted pistachios or unblanched and toasted almonds, coarsely chopped 1⁄2 cup toasted sesame seeds ground cinnamon
Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the oil and water and bring together with your hands. Knead very well to make a smooth firm dough. Add more flour if the dough seems sticky.
Roll into 2cm (3⁄4in) balls with your palms, pressing well to form smooth balls and place on an oiled tray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 11⁄2 hours at room temperature (I prefer, in the cold weather, to place the tray in a slightly warm oven).
Roll out one ball at a time with a rolling pin as thinly as possible on a work surface. The key to making perfect piticas is to roll the dough really thin. Keep the remaining balls of dough covered with the plastic wrap.
Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking hot, slowly lower one piece of the dough into the oil and deep fry. With a large spoon, continuously scoop hot oil over the pastry to make it puff up and is crisp and pale golden brown (30-40 seconds). With a slotted spoon carefully transfer onto a paper-lined tray to drain. Repeat until all the dough is used. Reduce the heat if the oil becomes too hot.
Make the honey syrup: Add all the ingredients in a medium pan and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer over a moderate heat stirring until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard the zest and cinnamon stick. Set the syrup aside.
Gently stack the cooled pastries on a large platter.
Just before serving heat the syrup again and ladle over the piticas making sure each pastry is covered. Sprinkle with the crushed pistachios and sesame seeds then dust with cinnamon and serve.
Stella’s Hint: * Piticas can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days without the honey syrup and topping. When ready to serve drizzle the piticas with the heated honey-syrup and sprinkle the topping over the pastries.