Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rum Cherry Sfogliatelle Ricci

This month, in the Daring Baker's club, we made a beautiful Italian pastry called Sfogliatelle (the name's translation is "many layers" or "many leaves" and it is pronounced "sfohl-yah-telly.")

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!

I had never seen these before, and when I viewed a photo my first thought was How the heck are those delicate layers created?!  It's actually quite simple.

A very thin dough is created, rolled up and sliced.  The slices are flattened, shaped, filled and baked.

Don't get me wrong, though.  This was one of the most challenging pastries I've ever made!  The original challenge recipe called for the use of a pasta rolling machine, but I don't have one...which I wasn't about to let stop me!

I also had the opportunity to make my own ricotta cheese with this challenge.  It was so creamy and delicious!  I thought I didn't love ricotta, but boy was I wrong.  I just need to make my own (and this task is really very easy, for real...the easiest part of the whole process by far).

The filling is a mix of ricotta cheese and semolina flour, with sugar and flavoring.  I went with the flavors of rum soaked cherries and nutmeg.  I also flavored the dough with a hint of almond extract.

You can find the original Daring Bakers challenge post here.  This post is dedicated to our late friend, Lisa, who so looked forward to me getting "back on the bottle" (so I could test some cocktail recipes for her) that I knew exactly what to use in my Sfogliatelle filling this month.  I'm sorry she never got to chuckle at my pregnancy safe rum recipe.

Rum Cherry Sfogliatelle Ricci

Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

4 cups whole milk milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large colander with 2 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth over a large glass.

Pour the milk, heavy cream and salt into a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir continuously for several minutes. The mixture will curdle. Pour into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for 1 hour. Scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Rum Cherry Filling
Note that this recipe made about twice as much filling as I ended up needing.

1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fine semolina flour
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, stir together chopped cherries and rum.  Set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the semolina, whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 1 minute. Spread the mixture onto a plate, about 1/2 inch thick, to cool. When cool, scrape in pieces into a medium bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and nutmeg. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the rum soaked cherries until combined.

Scrape the filling into a container and refrigerate until needed (for up to 3 days).

Sfogliatelle Ricci Dough
Makes about 9 small pastries.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter flavored shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir in the water. The dough will be dry. Turn the crumbly mess onto a work surface and knead together.  Only add an extra tiny bit of water if you must to bring the crumbs together into a dry dough.  If the dough seems sticky and moist, add a little flour.  Knead for about 5 minutes until the dough resembles a very smooth clay.  Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours, or overnight.

Beat the shortening, butter and almond extract together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other piece with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece and roll it out evenly into a strip about 4 inches wide and 20 inches long.  Fold up and cover so it doesn't dry out.

Repeat with the other piece of dough.

Place one strip of dough on a clean work surface and smear a six inch section liberally with the butter mixture. Also smear a light layer of the fat under the dough on the work surface.  Gently press the buttered section of dough out until the strip doubles in width, starting from the middle and going out  Beginning from the short end, roll the dough into a very tight roll. When you reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the whole strip of dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, overlap the end of the first strip to the beginning of the second; continue to butter, stretch and roll up.

Spread the butter mixture over the outer surface of the roll of dough.  Starting in the middle, gently run the hands down the length to extend the length of the roll another inch or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches and about as big around as a paper towel tube.

Wrap in plastic wrap and place inside a paper towel tube if you have one. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch slices. Put the semolina-ricotta filling into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch opening (Or a ziploc bag with the corner cut off).

Take one slice of dough and place it on your work surface. With the heel of your hand, flatten the dough out from the center in all directions until the round is about 3 inches wide.

Carefully pick up the round of dough (I had to scrape it up with a thin metal spatula) and form it into the shape of a cone in your palm without separating the layers of dough. Squeeze some of the filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly seal the opening closed. You do not have to seal the opening tight since the filling is too thick to ooze out during baking.

Place onto the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the top of each completed pastry with the butter mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm on the day they are made. To reheat, place in a 350°F oven for about 5 minutes.



  1. You did amazing! Your dough looks so even - I can't believe you were able to get it so thin and even by hand!! Super impressive.

  2. You are really brave!
    You rolled the dough by hand!!!!
    I love the flavours you chose for the filling, marvellous job :)
    Have a lovely day

  3. I am really amazed at the fact that you got such fabulous results rolling this by hand. I had a tough time with the pasta machine! Love your fillings.

  4. Gorgeous pastries! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  5. That looks wonderful! I'm impressed :) I just joined but think I may give it a try!!!


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