Sfogliatelle Napoletane, or Sfogliatelle Ricce

Neapolitan Flaky Pastries in the Shape of Clams

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    16 to 18

    pastries

Appears in

Sfogliatelle are the Neapolitan pastry par excellence. Made from a recipe for an ancient form of puff pastry, sfogliatelle ricce (curly or flaky sfogliatelle) are shatteringly crisp and flaky on the outside, with a creamy, semolina-thickened ricotta filling within. The pastry shops in Naples that sell the sfogliatelle keep them in warmers, so that the fat in the dough, usually lard, does not have an opportunity to congeal and render the pastry heavy.

Another form of the pastry is sfogliatelle frolle, or “tender” sfogliatelle. Here the same filling is enclosed in pasta frolla making it an easier version.

Although sfogliatelle are a bit time-consuming to prepare, the work may be divided over a period of days: make the dough one day and form the dough the next. Make the filling on the third day, then form and bake the pastries on the fourth. I have successfully frozen the formed dough for several weeks before forming and filling the pastries.

Your own sfogliatelle, fresh from the oven, just cooled to lukewarm, are an incomparable treat.

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Ingredients

    Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup warm water

    Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • cup semolina or cream of wheat
  • cups whole-milk ricotta, commercial or homemade
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • cup candied orange peel, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 4 ounces lard
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

Method

For the dough, combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir in the water. The dough will be very dry. Scrape the contents of the bowl onto a work surface, and press and knead the dough together so that all the dry bits are incorporated. Press or roll out the dough about inch thick and pass repeatedly through the widest setting of a pasta machine to work the dough smooth. Fold the dough in half after each pass through the machine and change the direction of inserting the dough occasionally. After about 12 or 15 passes, the dough should be smooth. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator about 2 hours.

For the filling, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and sift the semolina or cream of wheat over the boiling water gradually, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Lower the heat and cook, stirring often, until very smooth and thick, for a minute or two.

Press the ricotta through a fine sieve, or puree it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, and stir into the cooked semolina mixture. Cook several minutes longer, stirring often. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon, and candied orange peel off the heat. Scrape the filling into a shallow bowl or glass pie pan and press plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until cold and set.

Combine the lard and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until soft, fluffy, and completely mixed. Flour the dough and divide it into 4 pieces. Flour each piece of dough and pass each through the pasta machine at the widest setting. Make sure the dough emerges in a neat rectangular strip as wide as the opening of the machine. If the dough is uneven, fold it over on itself so that it is as wide as the opening and pass it through again. Pass all 4 pieces of dough, one after the other, through every other setting, ending with the last setting.

Place one of the strips of dough on a lightly floured surface and paint it generously with the lard-and-butter mixture. Begin rolling the dough into a tight cylinder from one of the short ends. Pull gently on the sides of the strip of dough as you roll it up to make it thinner and about 8 or 9 inches wide. Paint another strip of dough with the fats and position the rolled piece on it so that the end of the first strip meets the beginning of the second; continue to pull and roll up. Proceed with the third and fourth strips in the same way. Cover the remaining lard and butter and reserve, in the refrigerator, for baking the sfogliatelle. The dough should form a tight cylinder about inches in diameter and 8 to 9 inches long. Wrap in plastic and chill several hours, until firm. The dough may be frozen at this point; defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the middle level. Line 2 jelly roll pans with parchment. Remove the roll of dough from the refrigerator, place it on a cutting board, and trim the ends straight. Cut the roll into about 16 to 18 slices, each about ½ inch thick. Place the filling in a pastry bag that has a ¾-inch opening; a tube is not necessary.

To form the pastries, take one slice of the dough at a time and flatten it from the center outward in all directions, as in the illustration (this positions the layers of dough properly). Form it into a cone by sliding the layers away from each other with the thumbs underneath the dough and the first two fingers of each hand on top, manipulating the dough from the center outward. Holding the cone of dough on the palm of one hand and the pastry bag with the other, squeeze in the filling so that the pastry is full and plump. There is no need to seal the open end; the filling is too firm to run during baking.

Bring the lard-and-butter mixture to room temperature to soften it. Position the formed and filled sfogliatelle on the paper-lined pans and paint the outside of each with the lard and butter. Bake them about 20 to 25 minutes, basting once or twice with the remaining fats, until they are a deep gold. Remove from the pans to racks to cool. Serve the sfogliatelle warm on the day they are baked. To reheat, place on a paper-lined pan and heat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

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