Last Sunday morning I found myself taking some family to Logan Airport. It was pretty early in the morning, and I was really craving a cappuccino from the North End (The Little Italy of Boston) and thought after I dropped everyone off I was going to see if I could find a bakery open to get a cup.
The thing about the North End and me is that when I was a little girl I would spend time there with my Great Grandmother who lived right across the street from Paul Revere's house. She lived in the heart of the North End with the bakeries, delis and grocery stores all within walking distance. She was quite and old fashioned lady in that she would not keep anything perishable on hand but would go out each day to by meat, veggies, and treats. Everyday was an adventure for her in what she would cook for her family.
The North End is famous for many things since Paul Revere rode his famous ride, to the cobblestone streets, and all the restaurants (most of which are holes in the wall family run with the best food your could find for the money). The other thing the North End has is many bakeries with the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the streets that ropes you in to see all the desserts they have in store for you. Most folks who eat Italian pastry are drawn to the canolli, napolean, or tiramisu, all of which have become main stream and can be found even at your local grocrery store, but the sfogliatelle is one that most may not know about.
The best place in the North End to get one of these is Modern Pastry on Hanover Street. As a little girl my Great Grandmother and I would get up early and go to the bakery first thing to pick up a couple of theses for our dessert. For you see Modern Pastry only makes so many a day and when they are gone you cannot get anymore till the next day so it is very important to be there early. This is what I remember most, so the other day when I went to get a cup of cappucino I stooped at Modern and asked about the Sfogliatelle and best of all they just came out of the oven. I got myself two with my cafe and went on my way home.
A good Italian bakery will also put your treats in a Small box and tie the box, and that is just what I received ....
What's inside the package!!!
I have always wanted to learn how to make this flaky, moist and chewy dessert but have not tried yet. But this is the recipe of how to make them. I do know on thing for sure, they take time and are not very easy to make. If you do make them let me know how it goes ... or if you are like me ... get up early and drive to the North End and pick up a few to eat with coffee or tea later.
Sfogliatelle (Lobster Tails)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lard or margarine, melted
Note: You may wish to substitute 1 (1 pound package of frozen
puff pastry dough, thawed, for the above pastry recipe
1 cup milk
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon candied orange bits or grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
To make the dough:
In a large bowl, combine both flours, sugar and salt.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
Gradually add the water until a soft dough forms.
Form the dough into a disk, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
To make the filling:
Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
Slowly add the semolina flour, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Simmer the mixture 3-4 minutes, until thick and smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool about 5 minutes.
Press the ricotta cheese through a sieve to remove any lumps.
Add the ricotta, egg, sugar, candied fruit, and cinnamon to the semolina mixture.
Beat well to blend and set aside.
Making the sfogliatelle:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces.
If you are using puff pastry, use 1 of the 2 pieces from the package.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece into a 16 x 22-inch rectangle.
The dough will be very, very thin.
Starting at a short end, brush the first 1/3 of dough with some of the melted lard.
Begin rolling the pastry up like a jellyroll.
Brush the second 1/3 of dough with more lard, and continue rolling.
Finally, brush the last 1/3 with lard, and roll up completely.
Cut the roll into 1-inch pieces, which will resemble narrow rolls of ribbon.
Forming the sfogliatelle:
Place one of the slices in the palm of your hand.
Press the thumb of your other hand in the center of the pastry and push it down to form a small ribbed cup.
You do not want the ribs to separate.
Now you will begin to stretch the dough.
Carefully work around the cup, pushing down with your thumbs and pulling up with your fingers.
Think of it an opening a collapsible travel cup.
Form each piece into a cone, shaped 3 to 4 inches across the mouth and 1-inch at the tip.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly grease or line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Fill each pastry cone with 2 tablespoons of the filling.
Gently press the open edges together to seal the pastry. Pull out the top ends to form a seashell shape.
Place the sfogliatelle 1-inch apart on the baking sheets.
Repeat the procedure with the second piece of pastry dough.
Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
Allow the pastry to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
Transfer the pastry to wire racks to cool completely.
Sprinkle the sfogliatelle with confectioners' sugar and serve.
Makes about 32 pastries
Give it a try if you are ambitious.