A sfogliatella, also very common in the plural: sfogliatelle, sometimes known as a lobster tail in English, is a shell-shaped filled traditional Italian pastry that originates from Campania.
Sfogliatella means “small, thin layer/leaf”, as the texture of the pastry resembles stacked leaves.
As an Italian, I really don’t want to call it “lobster tail” because there is a difference between sfogliatella and lobster tail – as they do not refer to the same pastry. The lobster tail exists just in the United States and usually refers to a cream filled, larger pastry.
This pastry with a creamy feeling is so delicious! You can have it with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast. Here is the recipe:
Servings 18 to 20 pastries
For the dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup semolina flour
- A pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, chilled
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water (for egg wash)
- Around ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
For the filling:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup semolina flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mixed lemon and orange zest
- 2 nonstick baking sheets
- In a bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, the salt, and semolina flour. Use the fingers to work the butter into the dough till it forms pea-like balls. Otherwise, sift the dry ingredients into the blender and beat the butter into the mixture until it’s blended and relatively smooth.
- With you finger work the water in (or in the blender). Take out the dough and place it on a flat surface and roll it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and press it down. Put in the fridge for at least one hour.
- In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer. Add the semolina flour and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens (around 3-5 minutes). If it forms some lumps as it cooks, whisk till smooth.
- Transfer the flour and milk mixture to a bowl to cool slightly, around 10 minutes. Stir in the egg, ricotta, and sugar. Put the lemon and orange. Stir to blend. Taste for seasoning and place in the fridge until ready to use.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and divide in half. Flour a flat surface and roll one of the halves into a rectangle approximately 14 inches by 24 inches. The shorter end of the rectangle needs to be close to you. The dough need to be really thin – the thinner the better!
- Next, brush the whole rectangle with a layer of the shortening and sprinkle it with an even dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Evenly and gently roll it up into itself like a jelly sponge roll. You should roll carefully, taking care that it rolls up tightly.
- Place in the fridge for at least two hours. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the roll into 1 to 1 1/2-inch thick pieces. Then, repeat the same procedure with the other 1/2 of the dough.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C/ Gas Mark 5.
- Place one of the dough rounds in your hand and, with the other hand, press the thumb into the middle of your other hand (and, hence, into the dough) and begin to stretch the dough. You do not want to push so much that you make a cavity just yet.
- First, concentrate on making the dough round flatter and bigger. When it’s about the size of a large clam shell, begin to smooth and push down in the middle so it forms a cavity a lot like a large clamshell. You want to finish with a cone with an opening of around 3 inches and the smaller, tapered end around 1-inch.
- Brush a slight shortening on the dough and turn it inside out, cupping the dough cone between the length of the index finger and thumb. Carefully spoon 2 large spoonfuls of the filling into the cone. The cone need to be fairly filled and go to the edges of the opening with a thin layer of the filling.
- Close the mouth by carefully folding the cone opening over itself. The same as if you had two halves of a clam shell and were closing it up. Gently press the edges of the opening, together. Place on a nonstick baking sheet.
- Repeat with all of the dough, till both of the baking sheets are filled. Brush each with the egg wash.
- Place the trays in the center of the oven and bake until golden brown, around 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let them rest a few minutes on the baking sheet.
- After the sfogliatelle have rested for 5 minutes, sprinkle them with another dusting of confectioners’ sugar and place each baking sheet squarely under the broiler. Don’t walk away!
- Watch as the sugar slowly browns the top. In case the layer of sugar is light and you want to make it a little browner, then repeat with another dusting of confectioner’s sugar and another minute under the broiler.
- Leave them to rest 10 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Finally, your sfogliatelle are ready to be served.
Note: the Sfolgliatella dough can be frozen, at this point, and baked, as required, at a later date, if preferred. Actually, they bake better when baked from their frozen state.
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