July 07, 2013

Sfogliatelle (sometimes known as a lobster tail or clam shell pastry)

Last week I was thinking about making Sfogliatelle. A thin, flaky pastry with a ricotta cheese filling that is sometimes called a 'lobster tail' or 'clam shell' pastry in America since some of us struggle with the traditional Italian name.

In the end, I got busy and had to put this on the back-burner of my 'to do' list and didn't make it, then, to be honest, forgot about it. The funny thing is, this morning I was doing a quick search of my site for a sandwich recipe and landed on a page that featured this post from July, 2008.

I'm calling it providence. It's as if I picked up a book, opened the page at random and saw this recipe staring at me. The same pastry I was thinking of making last week and here it is; without me even looking for the recipe. Suddenly it's in my hands, five years after I first posted it. Not only that, but I have leftover ricotta cheese in the refrigerator that I need to use up anyway!

This is a rather labor intensive recipe because the dough has to be very, very thin. But that is the only 'hard' part of it. I also like my pastry to be more vanilla and less cinnamon and orange but that is just a personal preference.


1 c water
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1 pinch salt
1/2 c confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/2 c semolina
1 1/4 c flour
6 oz. butter
2 oz. sugna, strutto or lard
1 pinch cinnamon
3 oz. candied orange peel, diced
1 egg yolk

Bring the water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and pour in the semolina, stirring so as not to form lumps. Cook, stirring for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool.

Make a mound with the flour and use your fingers to make a hole in the center. Put in the well, half of the butter, a pinch of salt and as much water as necessary to knead the dough to a smooth and elastic consistency. Wrap the dough in a towel and let rest for an hour.

Mix the ricotta with the semolina, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and the candied orange peel. Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin to obtain a very large rectangle, 1/16-in. thick and about 2 feet (24 inches) across and 18 inches in height. Cut the pastry vertically into 4 strips and place one on top of the other, brushing each one with melted butter. Let rest for half an hour, and then roll up the stack of dough.

Slice the roll into 10 equal pieces with a very sharp, floured knife. Place the pieces on the pastry board and roll them gently with the rolling pin, first vertically, in an upward direction, and then in a downwards direction, to give them an oval shape.

Turn the ovals over, place a bit of ricotta filling in the middle of each one, brush the edges with egg yolk, then fold the dough over and press to seal. Brush the sfogliatelle with melted shortening and place on parchment paper greased with butter. Bake at 425ºF for 20 minutes, and remove from the oven. Brush with melted butter again, lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 20 minutes. Let cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.

You might also be interested in these Italian Cookbooks:

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