Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sfogliatelle Napoletane ...I made it

I told you that I have Italian roots. I also mentioned that I love Italian food. Nevertheless, I have to admit that every time I go to Italy, I discover new tastes and dishes from the places I visit. That situation has a very logic explanation. I grew up with the food of the Ligurian region that means basil pesto, panzotti salsa di noci, cima, and other typical dishes from that area. I was never exposed to the food of other Italian regions, and every time we go to Italy is a new culinary discovery. 

For working reasons, I lived in Rome in 2002. It was fantastic!!...

We rented a furnished apartment two blocks from the Colosseo, and experienced  the Italian life....We woke up early, went to the near bar to have breakfast, took the metro to work, drank many espressos or lungo during day time, and finally ate dinner in nice and cozy little restaurants around the main monuments in Rome. What I do remember the most? Our breakfasts in the bar: Capuccino and Sfogliatelle Napoletane.

Sfogliatelle Napoletane is both: my favourite Italian pastry and my culinary curse. Everytime I visit Italy, I MUST eat that epicurean and gastronomical delight. Nevertheless, that curse follows me to every city that I visit that has a Little Italy or Italian Sweet Shop. I’ve been following (and eating) this pastry everywhere I go in Canada and the USA. I have been chasing them in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. I have been following their trail in New York, Rochester, San Francisco, Houston, Ann Arbor, Madison, Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC and Hershey. What are the best? By far the ones I tasted in Montreal and San Francisco.
But my obsession (yes, it is an obsession) with this little celestial pastry has made me try, and try, and try to make it. I tried many recipes....and....Finally.....I did it!!
It was neither difficult nor super easy to make. It takes a long time to make it, but is possible. I have proved that the impossibility of doing Sfogliatelle Napoletane at home is an urban myth. Probably its shape and final appearance were not truly 100% sfogliatelle Napoletane, but my pictures proved that I DID IT, and I did it at home with my hands (and help of my husband...Thanks!!)

Here goes the recipe (for about 20 pieces):
500grams of flour
25 grams honey
½ teaspoon of salt
170g of lard (I could not find lard; therefore, I used butter)
200 cc of Water
1 brush

In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients with your hand (except lard) until you have a dough that feels like sand. Put it in a surface, and continue working with your hands adding the lard (120 grams at environmental temperature) in small pieces. Work vigorously until you have a smooth and homogeneous dough (more than 20 minutes). Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 4 hours. One of the things that I discovered is that in every country I have lived, I have to change my recipes. Why? Environmental moisture (or dryness) and humidity content of the flour do affect the final consistency of dough. Please, feel free to adjust the amount of lard and water in order to have a smooth dough. Take the dough out of the fridge, and let it rest for one hour. Divide the dough in 3 pieces. Maintain the dough that you will not working on covered with plastic comes the tough part:

Start with a rolling pin to work the dough. Place the dough in the pasta maker, and start rolling from #1 until #9 (the thinnest number possible). It is a very difficult process, and for that reason you need a helper (in my case, it was my husband). I passed the dough 3-4 times by each number in the pasta maker. Every time I passed it, I fold it in half and brush it in between (before folding it) with liquid lard. Probably, you will need more than 50 grams of lard, but it will depend on the environmental moisture.Put the long sheet of dough over a plastic table cover. It has to be very very transparent. Apply a generous amount of liquid lard with a brush to the dough. Moisture your hands and fingers, and then you gently stretch it without squeezing or making holes in the dough. Everything has to be done gently. Through this process, you will have a very elastic dough.

Start rolling up the dough from one end to the other (it has to be a roll shape).The rolling process has to make the roll very compact. Cover it with a moist kitchen towel. Repeat the operation with the other portion of dough. Once it is transparent, place it on the cover table and put the roll dough that you have previously made it, and start rolling up again on top of it (do not forget to apply lard). It is like rolling up a towel, and then place this roll over another towel and continue rolling up. Make the roll very compact. Repeat the same process with the third piece of dough (do not forget to apply the lard). Do not worry if the edges of this roll are not homogeneous on size, they tend to be very irregular.
Once you finish, you will have a roll made of three layers that it has to be about 20 centimetres long and 5-6 cm in diameter. Wrap in a plastic cover, and let it in the fridge for 24 hours.

For the filling:
1 cup of ricotta cheese (drained)
1 cup of milk
3 spoons of corn starch
Vanilla extract and/or beans
1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
4 spoons of sugar
100g chopped orange candied fruit (you can make them according to my previous post)

Mix the milk, sugar, and corn starch. Cook them until you have a thick cream. Add the vanilla, ricotta, and chopped orange candied fruit. Taste for sweetness. Let it cool. Now comes the fun.....Take the dough out of the fridge and with a sharp knife slice the dough in circles of 1cm width (it is a transverse cut).

Now take a deep breath and makes the pyramid shape....... Place the thumb in the center of the slice while the other fingertips hold its edge. With very gentle movements, work the slice gently pushing up from the center. With your fingertips sculpt the layers to create a pyramid. Start from center to the edges of the slide. Create the layers, but be careful to make holes.
Once you have the pocket, fill it with the filling. Seal it by pressing along the edges, and place it in an oven sheet to be cooked.
Put them in the middle oven rack, and cook it at 225 °C (very hot) for 7 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180 °C until puffs and gets a golden color (about 30 minutes). Remove them from the oven, and let them cool. Apply on top icing sugar. 
For your information: Tomorrow, it will be just a short posting. As you may understand, after doing this I AM EXHAUSTED. 


  1. Marcela, this look amazing!! Te pasaste amiga, se ve precioso y delicioso, pero por Dios no trabajes tanto amiga.(LOL) Me fascina la ricotta tanto para rellenar como para preparar platos, te mando muchos cariños.
    Estan MUY buenas tus fotos y està clarìsimo. un abrazo

  2. Ay es tanto trabajo, pues se hace en varios dias.....pero es cansador....pero como es mi obsesion, no me importa pues ahora estoy disfrutando uno con un rico Te.....mis fotos? gracias a mi puedo hacer todo....ojala se entienda lo que dificil guiar esta receta. Abrazos!!