Stars To Steer By

The misadventures of a creative mind

The Italian Upper Body Workout December 6, 2013

I know it been a while, but I’m pleased to finally be writing about another Daring Baker’s challenge. This month 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!


Sandie provided the Daring community with 3 different versions of Sfogliatelle; the American version which is larger and filled with a pastry cream, a soft cakey version, and the crisp layered version which is supposed to be made with a pasta roller. I went for that last one. A few notes before I start: as with many of the things I try, this recipe takes time – the dough needs to rest and be refrigerated for several hours at different points. I ended up making these over a couple of days, so just make sure that you budget plenty of time before you want these ready.

What you’ll need to get started:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
4 oz shortening
1/2 cup butter
Optional: I added saffron to my dough. Just steeped some of the stamens in the warm water before getting started. Not sure that it actually helped much or provided a lot of extra flavor but I wanted to try using it.

1. Combine the water, salt, and flour in a bowl. Mix until well combined – it is a very dry dough…I actually ended up cheating and adding another tablespoon or so of water to the dough to get it to properly come together.
2. Roll the dough out to 1/3 inch, fold in half and re-roll 15 times.
3. Knead the dough back into a ball, wrap up, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Once the dough has refrigerated: remove the dough and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a 4 inch wide strip. This is the bit you’re supposed to do with a pasta roller and since I haven’t got one of those fancy things I was working with a rolling pin. Which I’ll admit makes the process harder. (This is the arm workout portion of this post).
5. Flour the dough strips and roll them carefully onto a rolling pin.
6. Soften the shortening and butter, a beat until fluffy and well combined.
7. Carefully begin unrolling the first strip of dough, and very gently stretch the dough until it’s 8 inches wide.
8. As you widen the dough, paint it with the the shortening/butter mixture.
9. Roll the dough up tightly. Apparently, now that I actually read the instructions, you were supposed to roll all the strips into a single roll. Not so much what I did – I did 3 rolls, 2 that were 1 strip thick, and 1 that was 2 combined strips. This may have worked better for my version since the layers were a bit thick, being rolled out by hand.
10. Wrap tightly and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.


Honestly I did not think this filling was going to taste good. It sounded like the weirdest mish-mash of ingredients, things that wouldn’t necessarily combine nicely. But give it a chance. It actually comes together really well when baked and ends up with a nice flavor.

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese – fresh (do not buy the aged stuff you’re used to putting on salads)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar – I used brown because it was available but white works too.
2/3 cup semolina
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
The entire peel from one med orange cut into strips
3/4 cup sugar

1. The recipe actually calls for candied orange peel, which if you desire you can buy in a store in which case you won’t need the orange peel or that last 3/4 cup of sugar. But if you’re up for more challenges, try making your own orange peel, it’s fun and not that hard. First put the peel in cold water and boil it. Repeat this step 4 times (always replacing hot water with cold). Then place the 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water in a pan with the orange peels and simmer for, oh let’s say…45 minutes. The important part here is that all the orange peel should be covered with the sugar syrup. Once the times up, lay the peel out in a single layer and allow to cool. Roll in more sugar if desired.

2. Now moving on to the actual filling. In a small pot combine the sugar and milk, and bring to a boil.

3. Add the semolina and stir until the mixture becomes “smooth” (read as: to thick and glutinous to stir, not that it would matter because the whole glob is stuck to your spoon anyway and stirring is no longer really helpful).

4. Set that aside to cool

5. In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, egg yolks, cinnamon, and vanilla. Whisk to combine.

6. Roughly chop the candied orange peel and stir into the egg mixture.

7. If the semolina paste is cool enough to handle begin crumbling it into the ricotta mixture. Stir to combine. Filling complete!

Putting it all together….

1. Take your chilled dough logs out of the fridge and unwrap them. If you’ve used multiple sheets of dough per log the dough can be sliced into pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. For the single sheet rolls I found 1 inch worked better. (This takes practice. I suggest slicing part of a roll and trying all the steps before committing to a specific thickness.)

2. Taking one of these slices, place it in you’re palm.

3. Use the heel of your other hand to squash one half of the dough out into and arc.

4. Then carefully use your fingers to shape the dough into a long cone shape…also know as a cornucopia. You do not want to create holes between the layers during this phase.

5. Stuff the little bugger full of your cheese paste.

6. Place on a baking rack in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are turning a nice golden brown.

7. Dust with powdered sugar and consume!

P1040994 P1040995


My audience doesn’t have a lot of critics in it, but these received pretty rave reviews even considering the lack of skeptics. I actual ended up putting them together at a friends house, so he and his roommates were the first to try them fresh out of the oven and they seemed to like them. I also took some into work the next morning and rewarmed them (in a microwave, oh the shame) for my parents, because my dad actually came in to help me with one of my research studies. I also shared them out among my coworkers and the other people who were wandering in and out of the lab.

As previously stated, I heard mostly good things about these…except from my sister who tried to throw hers out a car window after getting to the cheese section. She really doesn’t like cheese textures in baked goods. I actually thought they were pretty good, especially right out of the oven, which surprised me because I was pretty dubious about them working. But the cinnamon and orange meld together very well, and the orange gives off the most beautiful aroma as you bite through the crust which has basically been deep fried from all the butter and shortening layered into it. And my mother has informed me that I’m making them over Christmas when Giuseppe is over. Giuseppe is an old family friend who is Italian, actually grew up in Italy, and who owns his own Italian restaurant. I’m not sure I want to give him my attempt at an Italian pastry but apparently I have no say in the matter.

And special star bonus points go to my boss for knowing these pastries by name. He came in to see how the study was going, saw the box of goodies on a desk and said “Are those Sfogliatelle?”
While I stood there with an extremely dumbfounded look on my face and nodded one of the other women asked how he knew, to which he casually responded that he recognized them from his last trip to Italy.


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