The first carneval event of this year will be held tomorrow in Venice so it’s high time “excercised” for the carnival season with making some sweet stuffs. Since I have an Italian colleague I’ve become more knowledgeable of the Italian culture of course included the Italian cuisine as well. Last week I gave a German pre-carneval treatment making and serving lots of Berliners (donuts), yesterday it was my Italian friend’s turn to come up with some original carnival idea of his country. He did an amazing job, actually I was gob-smacked meanwhile he prepared the sfogliatella which was a shell-shaped filled pastry. “Sfogliatella means small, thin leaf/layer, as the pastry’s texture resembles stacked leaves, and native to Campania”-he elaborated to us.
Meanwhile he was busy making it he added some more interesting facts about the sfogliatella such as: the sfogliatella Santa Rosa was a really ancient sweet since it was created in the monastery of Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini in the province of Salerno, Italy, in the 17th century. Pasquale Pintauro, a pastry chef from Naples, acquired the original recipe and began selling the pastries in his shop in 1818.
When he returned to making the pastry he stretched the dough out on a large table, and later flattened with my Pasta maker, then he brushed it with a fat (butter or margarine), then he rolled into a log (much like a Swiss roll, but with many more layers). Later on disks were cut from the end, shaped to form pockets, and filled. The secret of to reach the special form is that to bake the pastry until the layers separate, forming the sfogliatella’s characteristic ridges. -he said.
There are only a few recipes of the sfogliatella online in English, and they assume you know quite about bit about baking or were just wrong. I’ve tried to simplify the process. It’s a challenging recipe that requires a lot of time and some special techniques (Luca was in hot-line with his mamma in order to be able to make the perfect pastry!)
- Ingredients for the dough:
- 12 1/3 ounces bread flour
- 5 1/3 ounces semolina flour
- 1/3 ounce kosher salt
- 6 1/2 fluid ounces water or more if needed
- 2/3 fluid ounce honey
- The Filling: Recipes for the dough and filling vary. Fillings include orange-flavored ricotta, almond paste, and candied peel of citron (he filled the pastry with orange flavoured ricotta).
- 1 2/3 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup semolina flour
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel
- For Brushing:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup lard, room temperature
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Blend ricotta cheese in a food processor until smooth. Boil 1 cup of water and stir in the sugar. Sift in the semolina, whisking to avoid clumping. It will immediately thicken up. Reduce heat to low, fold in the ricotta, and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove pan from heat and return filling to food processor. While processor is running, add egg yolks, one at a time, until fully combined. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and candied orange peel and pulse to mix. Transfer filling to a bowl. Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
- Divide each dough piece into four pieces. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Place clean kitchen towels over a work surface. Lay each sheet of dough on the towels while you roll out the remaining sheets.
- Run each piece through the pasta machine on progressively smaller settings until dough is as thin as possible. After running it through the pasta machine, stretch each sheet as wide as you can without tearing. Dough sheets should stretch to three times their original width and be so thin you can see through it.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Melt butter and lard. Place the first sheet of pastry on the parchment. Brush the dough with the butter-lard mixture. Lay the second sheet above the first, overlapping a half-inch or so. Roll the sheets up into a tight cylinder, leaving about an inch to overlap the next sheet. Lay the third dough sheet on the parchment, overlapping the second sheet, and brush with the butter mixture. Continue rolling up the log of dough, repeating until all the dough pieces are brushed with the butter mixture and rolled up. Wrap dough log in the parchment sheet and wrap entirely with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place filling mixture in a pastry bag or a 1 gallon zipper bag with the corner snipped off.
- Cut cylinder of dough into half-inch slices; you should have 16 to 20 pieces. Holding the dough in both hands, use your thumbs to flatten the dough piece from the center outwards. Form flattened slice into a cone shape. Pipe filling into center, close partially, and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
- Bake in preheated oven until dough turns golden brown and starts to “peel” back from the pastries, 20 to 30 minutes. You can baste the pastries a couple of times with the leftover butter and lard mixture during baking, if you like. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. (This delicious pastry was originally prepared only for the aristocratic Renaissance set in Italy).