Sfogliatelle are a flaky, sweet, creamy Italian pastry. Not to be confused with “lobster tails” sfogliatelle are a special treat all their own. Learn their origins, what they taste like and how to make great sfogliatelle at home.
Where does Sfogliatelle come from?
Sfogliatelle is a traditional Italian pastry hailing from Naples. This delectable pastry is made up of numerous layers of thin and flaky dough. The dough is filled with a mixture of ricotta cheese and semolina, infused with lemon zest. Finally, it’s finished with a dusting of powdered sugar.
The origins of sfogliatelle are somewhat unclear. Most historians agree that it was likely created in a Neapolitan monastery in the early 18th century. The pastry was initially made for religious celebrations and festivals and was quickly embraced by the general public. Today, it’s a staple dessert item in Italian pastry shops worldwide, and tourists flock to Naples to taste the original.
The word “sfogliatelle” comes from the Italian word “sfoglia,” which means “layers” or “leaves.” This is an appropriate name since the pastry consists of numerous layers of paper-thin dough that are layered on top of one another and then wrapped around the filling.
How is Sfogliatelle Made?
The pastry dough for sfogliatelle is made with flour, water, and a little bit of salt. The dough is rolled out and then stretched, folded, and rolled again until it’s incredibly thin. This process takes quite a bit of time, effort, and patience since the dough must be handled carefully to prevent it from tearing or becoming too thick.
The filling for sfogliatelle is equally important and consists of a combination of ricotta cheese and semolina flour. The ricotta cheese adds a creamy and slightly sweet flavor to the pastry, while the semolina flour adds texture and density. Lemon zest is also added to the filling to give it a fresh, citrusy aroma.
To make sfogliatelle, the dough is cut into small circles, and a spoonful of filling is placed in the center. The dough is then folded over the filling, forming a shell-like shape. The pastry is then baked until golden brown and crispy, and finally, it’s dusted with powdered sugar.
What does Sfogliatelle taste like?
It can be difficult to describe something as heavenly as sfogliatelle. Really, it’s deliciousness lies in the interplay of different textures and flavors combining into one delectable dessert (or, breakfast — I don’t judge).
Sfogliatelle has a crispy, flaky exterior and a sweet and creamy interior filling. The filling is typically made with ricotta cheese, semolina flour, sugar, and sometimes flavored with lemon zest, vanilla, or cinnamon. The texture of the filling is smooth and creamy, and the pastry shell adds a satisfying crunch with every bite.
The taste of sfogliatelle is sweet and slightly tangy due to the ricotta cheese filling. The pastry shell is also lightly sweetened and has a buttery flavor that complements the creamy filling. The addition of lemon zest adds a citrusy freshness to the filling, while cinnamon adds a warm, spicy note.
Creating Flaky pastry layers
Throughout my work at a bakery, I became very familiar with the process of laminating dough – aka how the flaky layers are created in your favorite pastries like croissants.
It’s a time-consuming process that is dependent on outside factors such as the temperature of the room, humidity, and perhaps most importantly, your own patience. The key to good lamination is allowing the butter to cool and rest between laminations. This ensures that the butter doesn’t melt into the dough, but maintains itself as a solid separate layer that is then cooked off in the baking process, leaving behind flaky, butter vacancies in it’s wake.
Laminating dough is a process used in pastry-making that involves folding and rolling butter or fat into the dough to create layers, resulting in a flaky and tender texture in baked goods. Here’s an overview of the process of laminating dough:
Make the Dough
First, prepare a basic dough using flour, water, salt, and other ingredients as needed. Mix the dough until it forms a smooth, elastic ball.
Chill the Dough
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour to make it easier to handle.
Prepare the Butter
While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter or fat by beating it with a rolling pin or mixer to soften it slightly.
Roll out the Dough
Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangular shape.
Add the Butter
Spread the softened butter over two-thirds of the rolled-out dough, leaving a small border around the edges.
Fold the Dough
Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, with the unbuttered portion folded over the buttered portion.
Chill the Dough
Chill the dough again for at least 30 minutes to an hour to firm up the butter and prevent it from melting.
Repeat the Process
Roll out the dough again and fold into thirds, starting with the open ends of the dough facing you. Repeat the process several times, with the dough and butter layering and becoming thinner with each fold and roll.
Chill the Dough
Chill the dough again between each rolling and folding step to keep the butter cool and to prevent the dough from becoming too soft.
Use the Laminated Dough
Once you roll and fold the dough several times, it’s ready. Use in a variety of pastry recipes, such as croissants, puff pastry, or in this case, sfogliatelle!
Overall, laminating dough is a technique that requires patience, precision, and attention to detail, but it can result in delicious and impressive pastries with a flaky, tender texture.
How do you pronounce sfogliatelle?
Sfogliatelle is pronounced as “sfo-lyah-tell-eh” with the emphasis on the second syllable.
In Italian, the “gl” is pronounced similarly to “nyah” in English. It’s kind of like you’re saying “yah” but with more resistance of your tongue in your mouth.
Serving Suggestions for sfogliatelle
This one is pretty simple: Eat! There’s really no right way to eat a sfogliatelle, but in general, the sooner the better.
Sfogliatelle is best enjoyed fresh out of the oven. However, it can also be stored in an airtight container for a few days. Due to the delicate nature of sfogliatelle, day old sfogliatelle is in danger of becoming soft or soggy. However, it will still taste delicious, though not as good as fresh.
If you aren’t planning on enjoying your sfogliatelle right away, try freezing them for best preservation.
Sfogliatelle is an excellent pastry to serve with a cup of coffee or espresso. Feel free to enjoy these delights in the evening as dessert, or in the morning with breakfast!
Sfogliatelle is a truly unique and delicious pastry that has stood the test of time. Its history is deeply rooted in Italian culture and tradition, and its popularity has only continued to grow over the years. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting, sfogliatelle is a pastry that’s well worth the effort. So why not give it a try and impress your friends and family with this delicious Italian delicacy?
Here are some sfogliatelle recipes to try at home. Be warned: these are not quick recipes, but well worth the effort.
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