Monday, January 16, 2006

Pastry of the Nobles

Sfogliatelle della Nobilita

If only one good thing comes out of this friendship, it's the plethora of knowledge that is generously bestowed upon us by our dear friend, Phil. He’s been around the corner a few times and knows a lot. His presence demands your attention. His word is solid. Concrete. Earnest. His friendship is steadfast.

Ander and Phil walk together every morning. Rain or shine, except when it’s stormy weather and the trail gets flooded. After their walk, they meet at the corner market that has an area where you can sit and have a cup of coffee. The two bearded men are usually joined by other morning regulars to discuss current world affairs, local events, politics, art, home repair or spousal concerns.

Ander arrived home, a paper bag in his hand, and announced “I have ‘Sweet Adeles’, from Phil.” A laugh jumped out of me. I knew what he meant. I immediately put on my “ThUgg” boots (knockoff of Oprah's favorite "Ugg" boots) to head out to the Bungalow. The Bungalow is a coffee and tea house that offers a place for ease and simplicity. I will reserve details for a future post.

Ander and I request our Earl Grey hot. In anticipation of the first bite of these wonderful pastries, I take the requisite digital shots for this blog. That first bite was worth waiting for. As the evidence shows, the pastry was flaky and light. Not pretentious, in any way. The dough was tender and creamy, I suspect, due to the ricotta cheese. It was not too sweet, yet full of flavor. There was a gentle hint of citrus. No sign of heavy spices. The gentle sheath of powdered sugar was the pièce de résistance. Each morsel paired with a sip of the hot Earl Grey met every facet of my expectations. Don’t let these blonde bombshells deceive you. I would assert that Phil made these as low-sugar and low-fat as possible. He is thoughtful that way.

I could be compelled to have this pleasant pastry every morning. Ooh, the temptation of decadence and overindulgence comes over me as I envision an array of fruit preserves, lavender honey and clotted cream to accompany my next encounter with the Nobility. Forgive me. That’s a bit over the top. N'est pas? After all, I do claim to be a purist when it comes to certain foods. I’ll be content with the simple “Sweet Adeles” and a cuppa.

Of the immeasurable abilities that Phil possesses, it is in his baking that makes his presence significant. We are, without a doubt, fortunate to have this award-winning Baker among our friends.

Sfogliatelle, or little sheets, is a popular breakfast item in Italy according to the "Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink" by John Mariani.

Mary Ann Esposito, author of "Ciao Italia" says the Sfogliatelle Della Nobilita--Pastry of the Notables—“were originally made only for the noble families of the Renaissance and that is the reason why they are called sfogliatelle della nobilita, pastry of the nobles. Sfogliatelle means many folds or leaves, similar to the many layers created by puff pastry dough. These are flaky pastries that look like seashells when baked. They are filled with a mixture of sweetened ricotta cheese, semolina, and cinnamon. Sometimes citron pieces are also added. I have experimented with frozen puff pastry, and I like the results better.”


Sfogliatelle della Nobilita ~
Pronounced: Sfogliatelle (SFOH-l' yah-TEH-leh) della (deh-la) Nobilita (Noh-beh-LEE-teh)

Makes about 16

1 cup milk
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, well drained
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 1-pound package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed, or 1 recipe Puff Pastry for Sfogliatelle
4 tablespoons lard or butter, melted
Confectioner's sugar

Parchment paper, optional

To make the filling, in a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the semolina flour in a thin steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add the cheese, egg, sugar, and lemon zest to the semolina mixture and beat well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, if available.

Roll 1 sheet of the puff pastry out to a 16-x-22-inch rectangle on a floured, and preferably cold, surface (I use a marble slab). Starting at a short edge, brush one third of the sheet with some of the melted lard or butter and begin rolling the pastry sheet up tightly like a jelly roll; brush the remaining two thirds of the sheet with lard or butter and roll up.

Cut the roll into 2-inch thick slices. Form each piece into a small seashell shape by pushing your thumbs against the center of the piece and spreading it out to a small cup shape.

Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the semolina filling and place them 1 inch apart on the parchment-lined sheets or on ungreased cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Bake for 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheets and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

To serve, sprinkle the sfogliatelle with confectioner's sugar and then sprinkle a line of cinnamon down the center of each one.

Note: These can be assembled ahead of time, placed on cookie sheets, wrapped in foil, and frozen for later baking. Bake them frozen, allowing about 10 to 12 minutes more baking time.


Makes 1 Pound 6 Ounces Pastry Dough

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup fine semolina or pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lard, melted

In a bowl or food processor, combine the flours and salt and mix or process well to blend. Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the dough with a pastry blender or pulse in the food processor. Add the water gradually and mix or process until a ball of soft dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours before continuing with the recipe.

When ready to roll, divide the dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Roll each piece into a 16-x-22-inch rectangle on a floured and cold marble slab. Starting at the short end of each piece, brush one third of the sheet with some of the melted lard and roll up the pastry tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Brush the remaining two thirds of the sheet with lard and roll up.

Cut the roll into 2-inch-thick slices and proceed as for the recipe using the prepared puff pastry.

Adapted from:
Mary Ann Esposito, Host and Creator of
Ciao Italia


Blogger LB said...

Anni--And Phil lives WHERE? Because I need to see him right away.

Oh my goodness. Those are beautiful. And I am jealous!!

Lisa--In a Nutshell

8:58 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger anni said...

Hi, Lisa,

Hi, Lisa!

Phil and Liz live not too far. They've become our adoptive "older" siblings since Ander and I are First Borns. We share meals at least once a week. They have the same enthusiasm as we do about Food, Art, Culture, and Family!



9:00 AM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger MM said...

That looks absolutely scrumptious! Lovely blog - I really enjoy your writing style!

2:53 PM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger anni said...

Hi, Stephanie,

Thanks for your kind comments. I enjoy your writing as well!

Isn't cool how much we all have in common considering the number of miles between us?

You are always welcome to come by and visit.



11:25 AM, January 22, 2006  

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