Recipe of the Week: Sfogliatelle Napoletane with Semolina Cream
Sfogliatelle (pronounced “sfo-lya-tell-ay” and meaning “flaky pastries”) are the Neapolitan pastry par excellence. Made from a classic recipe for an ancient form of puff pastry, sfogliatelle ricce (curly or flaky sfogliatelle) are shatteringly crisp and flaky on the outside with a creamy, semolina-thickened ricotta filling within. The pastry shops in Naples that sell the sfogliatelle keep them in warmers, so that the fat in the dough, usually lard, does not have an opportunity to congeal and render the pastry heavy. Sfogliatelle can be made with savory filling, like Swiss chard and ricotta or sausage and ricotta. Makes 16-18 pastries. (Chef tip: Although sfogliatelle are a bit time-consuming to prepare, the work may be divided over a period of days: make the dough one day and form the dough the next. Make the filling on the third day, then form and bake the pastries on the fourth.)
2 sheets puff pastry
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup semolina flour
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup candied orange peel, rinsed and finely chopped
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the filling, combine the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the semolina over the boiling water gradually, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Lower the heat and cook, while stirring, until very smooth and thick, for about five minutes. Remove and cool the mixture.
Drain and press the ricotta through a fine sieve. Place it in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add to it the cooked semolina mixture. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon, and candied orange peel. Remove the filling and place it into a bowl, place plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until cold and set.
Sprinkle puff pastry sheet with sugar. Cut the puff pastry sheet into three pieces. Begin rolling one sheet of puff pastry into a tight cylinder from one of the short ends. Pull gently on the sides of the strip of dough as you roll it up to make it thinner and about 8 or 9 inches wide. Pull the strip of puff pastry so that the end of the first strip meets the beginning of the second; continue to pull and roll up.
Proceed with the third strip in the same way. The dough should form a tight cylinder about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 8 to 9 inches long. Wrap in plastic and chill.
Preheat the oven to 400F and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Line two jelly roll pans with parchment or silicone mats. Remove the roll of dough from the refrigerator, place it on a cutting board, and trim the ends even. Cut the roll into about 16 to 18 slices, each about 1/2 inch thick. Place the filling in a pastry bag.
To form the pastries, take one slice of the dough at a time. Using your thumbs form it into a cone by sliding the layers away from each other with the thumbs underneath the dough and the first two fingers of each hand on top, manipulating the dough from the center point outward. Holding the cone of dough on the palm of one hand and the pastry bag with the other, squeeze in the filling so that the pastry is full and plump. There is no need to seal the open end; the filling is too firm to run during baking.
Position the formed and filled sfogliatelle on the paper-lined pans, sprinkle with sugar on top of each sfogliatelle. Bake them about 10 minutes and remove from the oven and place them on racks to cool. Serve the sfogliatelle warm on the day they are baked. To reheat, place on a parchment paper lined pan and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes.