... aka shell-shaped Flaky Ricotta Pastries, a specialty dessert from Naples (Italy). You have probably heard this pastry mentioned on The Sopranos, but if you ever have tasted it, you'll remember forever!!!
The sfogliatella's history is intriguing, because there are a lot of versions about who, when and where it was created. One legend says that it was born in the 1700’s in the kitchens of the monastery of the Croce di Lucca as a welcome cake offered to the visiting prelates. It was, in fact, a strip of very thin puff pastry - more likely like a phyllo dough - which was wound around itself to enclose a filling of ricotta, sugar and small pieces of citrus and which took on the appearance of a seashell. Later on or, according to another legend, the sfogliatella was reintroduced (or created) in a slightly larger size by the nuns of the convent of Santa Rosa who enriched the filling with patisserie cream and fruit jam.
We know for sure the official date of when the first sfogliatella was produced outside the convents: it was in 1818, when Pasquale Pintauro, innkeeper of a tavern in via Toledo, decided to produce a continual stream of sfogliatelle, thus serving them to his customers still hot. This had an enormous success, with people cueing up along the street, waiting their turn. All the pastry shops in Naples imitated Pintauro, but he remains, however, the king of the sfogliatella.
The making of this pastry is quite elaborate, but it's so worthy!!!
500 gr bread flour
200 gr water
20 gr honey
5 gr salt
150 gr sugna (rendered pork fat) to brush the dough (you can substitute it with butter)
In a stand mixer, with a hook, mix all the ingredients. Wrap the dough in transparent paper and let rest overnight (DON'T SKIP THIS PASSAGE!).
175 gr ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 gr sugar
150 gr candied fruit
125 gr di semolina flour
Bring 375 ml water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and pour in the semolina, stirring so as not to form lumps. Cook, stirring for about 8 minutes. stirring constantly. Let cool. Sift the ricotta; mix with the semolina,and the rest of the ingredients. Let rest. If you make it ahead, such as the night before, it will be better.
Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin to obtain a 25x18-in. rectangle, 1/16-in. thick. Cut the pastry vertically into 4 strips and place one on top of the other, brushing each one with melted "sugna". Let rest for half an hour, and then roll up the stack of dough. Slice the roll into 10 equal pieces with a very sharp, floured knife. Place each slice on palm of left hand. With right thumb on center of roll, gently press through slice so that it forms a ribbed cone; make sure that ribs do not become entirely separated. Carefully work around cone with thumb and index finger until it is well shaped, 3-inches across mouth and 1/2-inch at tip. Press tip together. Fill each cone with 1 heaping tablespoonful of filling. Flatten cones slightly between palms of hands; place on lightly buttered cookie sheet; Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425ºF for 20 minutes or until cakes are golden color and crisp and filling is firm. Remove from oven, cool, dust with confectioners sugar. Serve.