Sfogliatelle Pastry

What is sfogliatelle? I can tell you one thing, it isn’t this:

funky sfogliatelle

Let me back up a little. Kate started work on the project early. She tagged me on Instagram and the next thing I knew, I was invited into her kitchen to see her progress. They turned out, but not in the seashell shapes anticipated. Sort of like horns of plenty, they were misshapen but intact. Still, I was intimidated by her troubles and my anxiety level began to rise.

Sfogliatelle consists of a laminated dough spread very thin, over and over again. A pasta roller helps, but you also need a lot of space for the long sheets of dough that result–something I lack. I read a few more tales of sfogliatelle and my blood pressure rose with each one. How the heck would I pull this off?

In a moment of inspiration, I decided to google “easy sfogliatelle,” though they could hardly be called easy with all that rolling out. It turns out there is a shortcut available–one that should have been obvious upon reading about the thin sheets of laminated dough. Puff pastry! Yes, it’s a bit like cheating, but I needed to do it, for sanity’s sake!

puff pastry

I thawed my puff pastry as directed and rolled it out on the counter very thinly. I spread butter on 1/3 and began rolling. And then I had a problem.

cutting sfogliatelle

I have spacial issues. I never was very good at Geometry. I can’t imagine shapes by reading descriptions. I have problems envisioning what something should look like based on instructions alone. The next step read to spread butter on the remaining 2/3 and roll, which I took to mean roll toward the center, where the first roll was. Sort of like when making elephant ears. Because why else would you explain it that way, if not that you were rolling in opposite directions? Well, this is why that doesn’t work:

sfogliatelle failure

I tried mashing it together to make some sort of seashell shape. What I got was… almost obscene. Not what I intended at all. I had a bit of a panic attack, clearing the house of all inhabitants so I could focus and regroup. I scanned the internet, desperate for some sort of explanation. But with my mind in the state such as it was, I couldn’t make sense of anything that passed the screen–I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

cutting sfogliatelle

For the second sheet of puff pastry, I decided to butter the whole darn thing and roll it up in one fell swoop, like a tightly-wound cinnamon bun. The next step made a lot more sense then–pushing the middle to create a cup, though I found my pointer fingers worked much better than my thumbs. Batch #2 was a slightly more appropriate sfogliatelle:

sfogliatelle pastry

It could use some work. I could have rolled the dough thinner. They could have been bigger–I only managed to fit about a teaspoon of filling in each one. And they should have been closed shut, another step missing in the instructions I followed. Still, they weren’t bad for a first timer. And the puff pastry made it immensely easier.

sfogliatelle pastry

I’m not sure if I’ll make these again–while they came out okay, they’re not very sweet. It shouldn’t surprise me that I would have this reaction–I’m not a fan of ricotta pie either–but it always comes as a shock when I make a dessert that isn’t on the sugary side. Still, I’m glad I tried because sfogliatelle weren’t even on my radar before this challenge.

Sfogliatelle Pastry
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Pastry
Serves: 16
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup semolina flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup organic sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon dried grated orange peel
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, well drained
  • 1 1-pound package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • Confectioners' sugar
  1. In a medium saucepan, boil the milk over medium high heat.
  2. Pour the semolina into the hot milk in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon all the while.
  3. Reduce heat and continue stirring, cooking for 3-4 minutes, or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat, transfer to a mixing bowl, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. In the meanwhile, beat the egg, then add to it the sugar and orange peel. Set aside.
  6. Once the roux is cooled, stir in the ricotta, then beat in the egg mixture until well combined. Set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Lightly flour your work surface and set out the first sheet of puff pastry, unfolding it carefully. Lightly flour the top and start rolling it out, rotating as needed and checking frequently to be sure it's not sticking to your work surface. Roll out to about 16"x22", then trim the edges to be sure you have a decent rectangle.
  3. Spread half the melted butter over the surface evenly, then, starting with a short end, begin tight rolling the dough like you're making cinnamon buns.
  4. Cut the rolled dough in 2-inch portions (having a ruler helps with accuracy).
  5. On the short end of each section, press down in the center with your pointer fingers, stretching into a cup.
  6. Drop 2 teaspoons of filling into the center of the cup and seal the dough, so you have a triangular package. Place on the prepared baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Repeat with the 2nd sheet of puff pastry.
  9. Once completely cooled, dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.
I had A LOT of leftover filling, so you may want to halve that part.

Next month, we’ll be making Croquembouche–a tower of beautiful cream puffs encapsulated in a cage of crunchy caramel. Yes, we’re gluttons for punishment here. But can you think of a prettier way to celebrate the coming of the summer wedding season? Sometimes you’ll even see them on dessert tables at wedding receptions. Just perfect! If you’d like to join us in sharing our croquembouche on June 1st, click on the First on the First tab above for more information.

Kate tried making sfogliatelle, too.

She also found the process difficult…

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  1. I think you created some pretty cool shapes! These seem really labor intensive but good for you for sticking it out and trying to make it work:)

  2. Sometimes it’s the mistakes that are the most fun πŸ™‚ Glad you eventually kind of got them to work, even if you weren’t thrilled with the result.

  3. Haha, I wouldn’t call your first attempt quite “obscene” but I love that you tried again! You were much braver than I πŸ™‚

    • Angela Gilmore on 2 May, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    • Reply

    Wow I am impressed! Those are serious pastries! Honestly I had no idea how to spell them either, which is also impressive. I am pinning!

    1. Thank you! Let me know if you decide to make them–I’d love to hear about your results!

  4. This was SUCH a difficult challenge!! I faced some similar challenges. I’m so happy you still stepped up and gave it a try. I thought these were tasty but I also prefer my desserts a little on the sweeter side. I don’t think I’ll make these again but I’m glad I can cross it off my baking bucket list πŸ™‚

    1. I had never even heard of them before you–so thank you for introducing me! I think that next time I’ll leave it to the bakeries, though. πŸ˜‰

    • J Timothy Quirk on 4 May, 2013 at 8:18 pm
    • Reply

    Wow. I was looking at that recipe and thinking to myself…no way I could do this. The end result looks so pastry chef straight out of the food channel… but I also saw that I had a lot of the ingredients already (just not the frozen puff pastry and confection sugar.) so there’s a chance i could tackle this. if i get the nerve, i’ll let you know how it goes!

    1. That’s the best part of taking on a challenge like this–exceeding what you think your limits are. I’d love to hear about it if you do try to make them!

  5. I love these. I LOVE LOVE LOVE these. Fav Italian dessert.
    Impressed you tried to make them! Cool

    1. They do taste fantastic! But I’ll leave it to the pros next time!

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