Renato’s sweet ricotta pies

Maltese Sweet Qassat: Photography: James Bianchi

A savory version of these individual sweet ricotta pies are very popular on the island but the sweet ones are rarely seen. They will start making an appearance in the local confectionaries as Christmas draws closer.

They are very festive decorated with bright red and green sugar and delicious with bits of candid peel and chocolate grated into the filling. This recipe was passed on to me by Renato Briffa, one of my former lecturers, now a good friend. His father opened a very popular bakery in the City Centre in 1955 and he is truly a specialist on local sweets. I admire his work and he is always generous with sharing his recipes and his father’s old secrets.

With Christmas with us, you may want to bake some of Renato’s specialities to share with family and friends and I am including links to other recipes by Renato that are popular on the island during the Christmas season.

And I always say that sweets make people happy and at Christmas we should be happy even if we need a boost with some sugary sweetness. Making sweets makes me happy and I am in heaven in my kitchen. The very thought of spending a day in the kitchen excites me. And I will have the added bonus of feasting my eyes in appreciation of all my work when I finish….

For the sweet ricotta pies you will need:

For the dough
500g flour
200g chilled butter cut up in cubes
1 egg
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons sugar
about 1/2 cup water

Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the salt and sugar.
Add the egg and work in and then the water gradually. You may not need to add all the water. Knead the dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

For the filling
500g ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 cup mix of grated dark chocolate and mixed peel
2 tablespoons sugar

Mash up the ricotta. Add all the other ingredients and stir until even.

Making the pies

Roll out the dough and using a 4 inch circular cutter, cut out rounds on a well floured surface.

Put a spoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle if the circle.

Pinch the edge of the dough into pleats until you have done it all around. You are trying to get an open funnel surface. Either pipe some more of the ricotta mix into the pie to fill the neck of the funnel. You can also use a teaspoon but do not fill it right to the top as the filling will expand and rise.

Brush the pastry with egg wash.

Bake at 200C for about half an hour until they are a golden color.

For the topping :

200 ml double cream
2 spoons sugar

Whisk together until thick.

And for the colored sugar : 1 drop each of green and red food coloring to every 4 spoons of sugar. MIx together.

I used a piping bag to top the pies with cream but you can spoon it in.
Top each pie with a cherry and sprinkle some green and red colored sugar for a festive look.



Renato checking out his baking !

A true Master Baker, Air Malta Magazine

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