Sfogliatelle

Paper-thin layers make these golden pastries shatteringly flaky and crisp, hugging a thick yet creamy ricotta-semolina filling.

Sfogliatelle
Photo:

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Shell Royster

Active Time:
3 hrs 15 mins
Chill Time:
3 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs 50 mins
Servings:
24 servings
Yield:
24 pastries

Sfogliatelle is an Italian pastry that comes from the Campania region in Italy. The word “sfogliatella” translates to small, thin layer, but these pastries are often called lobster tails for their layers of pastry and curved shape. This recipe pays homage to the classic while adding a few special touches, like the cardamom and splash of orange blossom water, which give the pastry a nice floral note. 

It is a labor of love to roll the dough and mix the filling, but it’s worth it for the flaky, creamy results. You’ll want to use a pasta machine to roll the pastry dough as thin as possible. Slathering lard between the paper-thin layers of dough helps these golden pastries bake up to be shatteringly crisp. These pastries are best served warm from the oven; they will lose their crispness in a day.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 cups (about 17 ounces) bread flour (such as King Arthur)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1 cup water, at room temperature

  • cup (7 ounces) lard, at room temperature

Filling

  • 2/3 cup water

  • 2/3 cup whole milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • 2/3 cup (about 3 5/8 ounces) fine semolina flour (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta (preferably Galbani), drained overnight

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting  

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange blossom water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 large egg yolk

Directions

Prepare the Dough:

  1. Stir together flour, salt, vanilla, and cardamom in a large bowl. Gradually stir in water until combined. (Mixture will still seem very dry, crumbly, and shaggy.)

  2. Turn out mixture onto a clean work surface; press and knead together until dough is rough, firm, and still slightly dry but homogenous and pliable, 4 to 5 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

  3. Unwrap Dough; divide into 4 equal portions. Roll and press 1 dough portion into a rough 7- x 3 1/2-inch rectangle (about 1/4-inch thick), keeping other portions covered in plastic wrap. Run dough, short side first, through a pasta machine on widest setting. Fold dough into thirds (like a letter), squaring edges as much as possible. Turn dough 90 degrees, and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness; run through pasta machine on widest setting. Repeat process 3 to 4 more times, folding and turning dough after every pass through pasta machine until dough sheet is smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap; repeat with remaining dough portions.

  4. Unwrap 1 dough sheet; run short side first through pasta machine through each setting, switching to progressively smaller settings, rolling it twice on thinnest setting, until dough is as thin as possible (dough will be about 4 feet long). Place dough flat on a large work surface.

  5. Spread a thin, even layer of lard over dough by hand or using a pastry brush. (Microwave lard on HIGH in 20- to 30-second intervals until slightly softened, if needed.) Gently stretch dough to 14 inches or as wide as possible without tearing. (Dough should be triple its original width and thin enough to see your hand through it; it’s okay if small tears occur in dough.) Starting with short side, roll up dough tightly into a log, leaving 1 inch of dough unrolled. Grease surface of log with lard; loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

  6. Unwrap second dough sheet; repeat process of rolling through pasta machine and stretching. Line up 1 end of stretched dough sheet with rolled log, overlapping the edge 1/2-inch over unrolled edge of log. Roll stretched sheet around existing log to create a larger log; grease log with lard, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Repeat process with third and fourth dough sheets until you have 1 large log (about 2 inches in diameter). Generously grease with lard, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. (You may have some lard leftover.) Chill log for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Prepare the Filling:

  1. Bring water, milk, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high, whisking often. Add semolina flour to water mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly, until flour is very thick and pulls away from sides and bottom of pan, about 20 to 30  seconds. Transfer to work bowl of a food processor; let cool 5 minutes. Add ricotta, powdered sugar, orange blossom water, vanilla, orange zest, cardamom, cinnamon, and egg yolk; process until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer to a medium bowl; press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until mostly cooled, about 30 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon Filling into a large pastry bag or ziplock plastic bag; cut a 3/4-inch hole in tip or corner.

  3. Unwrap chilled dough log. Trim and discard 1/2 inch off each end to create even ends; slice  log crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (24 slices total). Place all but 3 slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to use.

  4. Working with 3 dough slices at a time, place dough slices, cut sides down, on work surface. Using heel of your hand, flatten each dough slice starting from center and moving outwards. Repeat all the way around dough slice until round is about 3 inches in diameter. Lift round off work surface using a bench scraper, and hold with fingers on inside and thumbs on outside. Use fingers to form round into a 3-inch-wide x 2- to 2 1/2-inch-long cone shape, fanning out layers and thinning sides as much as possible.

  5. Pipe about 2 tablespoons Filling into each cone, stopping about 1/4 inch from top edge; pinch cone slightly closed. Place cone on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough and Filling, spacing cones at least 1 inch apart and keeping covered while working.

  6. Bake, 1 baking sheet at a time, in preheated oven, until evenly golden brown and crisp, 24 to 26 minutes, rotating baking sheet from front to back halfway through baking time; loosely cover with aluminum foil during last 5 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning, if needed. (Pastries may split slightly as they bake.) Let cool on baking sheet on a wire rack 10 minutes. Dust evenly with  powdered sugar; serve warm.

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