Welp. This was the first recipe on this adventure that I pretty much failed at on the first try. My first attempt was less than satisfactory, so I made it a second time. And they’re still not correct, they’re a bit closer!
Oh, Italy. Italia. *sigh* What a great place. I had the privilege of spending a little over a week there about a year ago, and I dearly wish it could have been longer! I visited Florence and Rome when I was there, and both places were absolutely beautiful. If there’s any place in the world that actually looks like what you see in pictures and movies…it’s Italy! So beautiful, so historical, yet modern. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD. If I could, I would take a month or two and travel the length of Italy from top to bottom. Maybe one day!
Italy is another one of those countries where there were a million good options of baked goods to choose from. I would have loved to try making cannolis because who doesn’t love a cannoli?? But those are made by frying the shells and there is no baking involved 😦 Tiramisu is another obvious option but…I’ve had that before. Same with biscotti. Good, but…not my favorite thing. A Caggionetti (or Sicillian Ricotta Cake) looked fascinating and pretty, but I didn’t feel particularly inclined to do lots of candying of fruits for the topping (however, it was the pistachio marzipan on the outside that nearly won me over!). I ended up with Sfogliatella, also known as “Lobster tails.” They seemed fascinating, had a ricotta filling (yum), and an interesting method of making them.
The dough itself was extremely simple, consisting of flour, water, honey and salt mixed together, kneaded, and left to chill for a while. The filling was interesting to me. I’d never used semolina before…or I thought I hadn’t. When cooked, it reminded me of Cream of Wheat I used to eat for breakfast growing up. And when I looked it up, I discovered that they are basically the same thing! The filling is made by cooking together ricotta, semolina, water, sugar, eggs, a few spices and some candied citrus peel. Its kind of like a creamy custard, with a bit of texture from the semolina.
I think the main thing that caused me trouble with the execution was getting the dough rolled thin enough. The first time, I definitely didn’t roll it thin enough, which I discovered when I cut the dough into pieces. The second time I got it much thinner, which helped, but I still think, ideally, it should have been thinner still. What I really needed was a sheeter! (I did contemplate going to work on my day off just to use the big sheeter we have there haha!).
After getting the dough rolled as thin as humanly possible, you spread it with a layer of butter, and roll it up tightly and let it chill. I believe I put too much butter on the dough the first time, and the combination of too thick dough and too much butter made the layers not stick together. So I used a brush the second time, and spread on a thinner layer of butter. Once the roll has been chilled and set, it gets cut into slices about 1 cm thick. Then you use your fingers and kind of pinch them into a shape…sort of like a mini cornucopia basket! You spoon in a bit of the filling, and pinch it shut, and bake!
Mine also turned out very small, which I think maybe was an effect of not rolling the dough thin enough. If I could have gotten it thinner, the surface area would have been greater, and would have given me more layers to work with. I also had an idea, which my roommate also suggested, of laminating the dough sort of like puff pastry before rolling it up, to theoretically give it more layers. I’m not sure if that would work well with this kind of dough, but it’s a thought!
If anyone else want to try this at home, and you dont have access to a sheeter, my advice when rolling out the dough, is to not flour the surface. This dough is very elastic and will “unstretch” back down as soon as you lift the rolling pin if it doesn’t have something to stick to…like the table or counter top. So I found that using little or no flour helps keep it stretched. The only time I put flour on the surface is when the dough stuck too much to the table and caused rippling or hindered it from stretching more, in which case I spread a very thin dusting of flour on the surface and continued on.
Let’s try this again!
All in all, I get the theory, I just need a better method of getting the dough paper thin!
Alright, some Italian current events!
-Last week there was a 4.7 magnitude earthquake near Amitrice, and 292 people died. Wow that’s sad. This Tuesday, there was a mass funeral held for 37 of the victims in Amitrice. There are still up to 10 people still missing. 😦
-A little “beauty from pain,” a couple got married in the broken village where the earthquake hit, even though the church they were planning on getting married in was heavily damaged. They moved the wedding to the village square outside, and carried out the ceremony as planned there, with all their guests. Congrats to them!
-Italian coast guards rescued 6,500 refugees and migrants off the Libyan coast on Monday! (WOW that’s a lot!) It took 40 rescue operations to get them all. Apparently, since 2014, about 400,000 refugees have made the trek from northern Africa to Italy, fleeing war and poverty. If you’d like to read a bit more on this, here’s the article.
Before I get to the recipe, I’d like to note that the first time I made this recipe, I halved it, and the second time, I quartered it so I wouldn’t have a ton of these little things.
I got the recipe from HERE, and it said “authentic” and has pictures of Italian chefs making these things to go along with it, so that’s good enough for me! 😉
Ingredients for the Sfogliatella dough
1000 gr flour, high-gluten
350 gr water
15 gr salt
40 gr honey
400 gr lard or butter, at room temperature.
Ingredients for the filling
Candied fruit in cube 100gr
Cinnamon, a pinch
Salt, a pinch
Knead the flour with the water, honey and salt for around 20 minutes. The dough is firm. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Bring the water, salt and vanilla to a boil. Add the semolina and boil 4-5 minutes. Heat the eggs to lukewarm and add to the above mixture, and then the other ingredients.
Remove the dough from fridge, and roll the dough till as thin as possible, the thinner it is, the crunchier it will be. Rub the sheet of dough with the lard (or with the butter), use a spatula or brush to spread it. Tightly roll up the dough into a single roll, cut off any extending pieces in order to obtain a cylindrical shape. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Cut the cylinder in slices approximately 1 cm thick. Using your fingers, form the shape of the sfogliatella; place filling in the dough and close the sfogliatella with light pressure. Place the sfogliatelle on a baking pan covered with baking paper, bake at 200°C for approximately 20 minutes.