Two varieties of sfogliatelle are eaten in Naples – the riccia and the frolla. Riccia have fan-shaped layers of filo-like pastry and, when eaten warm, are quite crisp. Frolla are made with thin shortcrust pastry. Both have the same sweet semolina and ricotta filling with candied citrus zest. Apparently, you are either a riccia fan or a frolla fan, and the fan-shaped riccia seem to be the most popular. I swim against the tide and admit to being a frolla fan. Traditionally, strutto (pork back fat) was used to make the pastry, but I have substituted this with butter. The sfogliatelle will keep for about 3 days in a sealed container, and are even nicer if you warm them up slightly. If you have a sweet tooth, re-dust with icing sugar before eating.
Rather than the more well-known variety of sfogliatelle, with layers of filo-like pastry, these are made with thin shortcrust pastry.
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with a splash of milk icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) 00 weak (cake) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 170 g (6 oz/¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- pinch of salt
- ½ tsp pure vanilla essence
- 200 g (7 oz) cold unsalted butter, diced 100 ml (3½ fl oz) cold water
- 300 ml(10 fl oz) full-cream (whole) milk (optional), plus extra for sealing the dough
- 300 g (10½ oz) fine semolina
- 250 g (9 oz) ricotta
- 180 g (6½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ tsp orange blossom water
- 1½ tbsp candied orange peel, finely chopped
- pinch of ground cinnamon
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time: overnight
To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk briefly, then tip the lot onto a clean work surface and make a well in the centre. Scatter the vanilla essence and cold diced butter into the well and work into the flour quickly using your fingertips. Once the butter is incorporated and the mixture has a sandy texture, pour over the cold water, a little at a time, while you continue to work the dough. You should eventually have a cohesive smooth ball of dough. Scrape up any excess dough and pat onto the ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge overnight.
Combine the milk (if using) with 300 ml (10 oz) water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Alternatively, bring 600 ml (20½ oz) water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt, then slowly and steadily pour in the semolina, whisking constantly until it thickens. When it becomes too thick to use a whisk, change to a wooden spoon. This step is critical to ensure that your semolina is smooth and free of lumps.
Once the semolina is completely incorporated, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring the mass until thick and stiff. Scrape into a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, sugar, egg yolks, orange blossom water, candied peel, cinnamon and a pinch of salt, then add the semolina. As the semolina will be fairly stiff you will need to mix it in with your hands until it is homogeneous. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Bring the filling to room temperature. Divide the pastry in half, keeping the half you are not working on well wrapped in plastic wrap. On a well-floured work surface, divide one pastry half into 10 equal-sized pieces, then roll each piece out to a rectangle about 18 cm x 12 cm (7 in x 4¾ in).
Place an apricot-sized ball of the semolina mixture just off-centre on a rectangle of dough. Flatten the mixture slightly, then fold over the long edges of the pastry to obtain a pocket, about 7–8 cm (2¾–3¼ in) in diameter. Seal the edges with a little milk or water, then using a 9 cm (3½ in) cookie cutter or a glass of similar size cut out circles of sfogliatelle. Transfer to the prepared baking tray, then repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Brush the surface of the sfogliatelle with the beaten egg yolk and milk and bake in two batches for 20–23 minutes until golden.
Set aside to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes then dust with icing sugar. Ideally these should be served just warm and re-dusted with icing sugar.
The sfogliatelle will keep in an airtight container for 2–3 days.
This recipe is from Italian Street Food. (Smith Street Books). Photography by Paola Bacchia.