Sicilian Ricotta and Chocolate Pies / Iris

Makes 1 Dozen Iris

As soon as I spotted iris, typical Sicilian street food, in the Capo market in Palermo, I knew I had to try one of these beautiful golden disks of yeast dough, coated with crunchy bread crumbs and cinnamon sugar. From the inside, a pleasant surprise of warm soft and creamy sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, sweetened with sugar and mixed with chunks of chocolate, oozed out. I even found myself licking my fingers after this most satisfying culinary experience. Since sheep’s milk ricotta cheese is not easy to find, use skim milk ricotta. Iris are best eaten the day they are made.


  • 1 pound skim milk ricotta cheese, well drained
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Straight Dough
  • About 6 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying


  1. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, chocolate, ¼ cup of the sugar, and the lemon and orange zests and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Crack the eggs into another small bow. Beat them slightly with a fork and set aside.
  3. Pour the bread crumbs into a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Place the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and the cinnamon in a heavy paper bag. Fold over the top, shake to blend the ingredients well, and set aside.
  5. Punch down the risen dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky. Roll the dough out into an 18-inch circle. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut circles from the dough. Place the circles on clean dish towels, about 1 inch apart. Reroll the scraps and cut enough circles to make 24 in all.
  6. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each of 12 of the circles. Brush the edges lightly with some of the beaten eggs. Cover with the remaining circles and seal the edges with your fingers. Then pinch the edges together all around to seal.
  7. Carefully lift each filled round with your fingers and dip it in the beaten eggs, turning to coat on both sides. Then gently coat each round with the bread crumbs and place the rounds on cookie sheets, leaving some space between each one.
  8. In a deep-fryer or deep heavy pan, heat the vegetable oil to 375ºF. Fry the iris a few at a time until they puff up and are browned on the bottom. Turn and cook until browned on the other side. With a slotted spoon, remove the iris to brown paper to drain well.
  9. While they are still warm, place the iris one at a time in the bag with the sugar and cinnamon and gently shake to coat them. Place the iris on a decorative platter and serve warm.
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