Sandie of the lovely blog, Crumbs of Love, was our November hostess. Sandie challenged us to make a traditional Italian dessert, along with its American version – Sfogliatelle (or better known in the US – lobster tails!) The flakey, 1000 layers of super thin dough, shaped into a horn and filled with a scrumptious filling. Così buono!
On the first day or two of November I checked in on the Daring Bakers Forum to see what our challenge would be for the month. As always the challenge post began with a short introduction by Lis, co-founder of Daring Bakers'. Lis always has such kind words for the past challenge host, praise for the current challenge host and encouragement for her fellow Daring Bakers'. For the month of November Sandie from Crumbs of Love ( wonderful blog - you must check it out!) challenged us to Sfogliatelle! This crunchy flaky pastry of many layers encases a filling of ricotta flavoured with cinnamon and orange but is not usually the domain of the average home cook. Not so for us Daring Bakers'!
I was thrilled with this challenge as I had been wanting to try this pastry for a long time. Within the first 10 days I had completed the challenge and fell in love with this delicious pastry. Thank you so much Sandie!
But it was with some shock that I tuned into Daring Bakers a few days later to the news that our fearless leader Lis had suddenly and unexpectedly pass away. Daring Bakers was the brainchild of Lis and Ivonne who back in 2006 decided to back pretzels from the same recipe and post about it. This soon lead other people joining in and then the group was given a name - Daring Bakers'. Now 1000's of people around the world bake from the same recipe each month, learning and sharing with each other. Thank you Lis. You have left a wonderful legacy which is the essence of who you were - fun, innovative and daring! RIP Lis.
For this recipe we were required to make the pastry and either our own ricotta or candied orange peel. I already had some of my own candied orange peel lurking in the bottom of the fridge so I made the ricotta. Fresh homemade ricotta is easy and delicious!.
First lets start with the pastry because it will need to rest.
Servings: 14-18 pastries
You will need a large/long workspace for this.
3 cups (750 ml) (15 oz) (420 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
teaspoon (6 gm) salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm water (about 100°F/38°C)
4 oz (115 gm) lard (I used Crisco butter flavored shortening)
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, softened
1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the water, or use your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. The dough will be very dry. If you feel absolutely compelled, add an extra teaspoon of water but it is supposed to be very dry. Turn this out onto a clean work surface and knead the dough together, bringing in all the dry bits.
At this point get your pasta roller out and ready. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch (10 mm) and pass through your pasta machine at the widest setting. I find it much easier to cut my dough in half and work 1/2 at a time for this step. Fold the dough in half after each pass also change the direction of the dough occasionally. After about 15 passes the dough should be very smooth. Knead the dough back into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours, or overnight.
2. Beat the lard/shortening and butter together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Place into a bowl and set on the workspace in easy reaching distance.
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece pass it through the pasta roller set at the widest setting. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches (10 cm) in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip. Once even, pass the dough through every setting, ending with the highest.
4. Place one piece of a strip on you clean work surface and paint (or smear) it liberally with the lard/butter mixture. I do about a 8 inch (20 cm) section at a time. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it, starting from the middle and going out, until it is about 8 or 9 inches (20 or 23 cm) in width. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, roll out another piece of dough as above then stretch and overlap the end of one to the beginning of the other; continue to pull, stretch and roll up.Each strip of dough will attach to the roll with the lard/butter mixture. Continue this way until all the pieces are stretched and rolled.
5. Spread the lard/butter mixture over the entire finished log and starting in the middle gently run the hands down the length to extend the length another inch (30 mm) or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches (25 or 28 cm).
6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months, at this time. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Lets make the ricotta
8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (or goats milk)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream (about 35%)
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1. Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth over a large glass; set aside.
2. Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what you want it to do. Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Lets make the fillingSemolina-Ricotta Filling
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) fine semolina or cream of wheat (I have tried both and personally like the semolina version)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (13-1/4 oz) (375 gm) whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 teaspoon of extract)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) candied orange peel (commercial or home-made)
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Marsala
Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch (15 mm), to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel, lemon zest and marsala.
Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days).
Let continue with the pastry and completing the sfogliatelle
7. Preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6
8. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
9. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch (30 mm) from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch (15 mm) slices. Put the semolina-ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch (20 mm) opening (A disposable pastry bag or even a ziploc bag with the corner cut off is fine).
11. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each completed pastry with the lard/butter mixture. Bake them in a preheated moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
12. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. These are best served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar on the day they are made. To reheat them, just place them in a moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 5 minutes.
Kept in the refrigerator these pastry do reheat well so you can enjoy them for several days (if you can resist gobbling them all up!)
Enjoy for breakfast with an espresso.