Sfogliatelle (Italian shell-shaped pastry)

    6 hours 30 min

    This delicious pastry with a rich ricotta and orange peel filling, sometimes called lobster tails, was originally prepared only for the Italian aristocracy during the Renaissance. It's a challenging recipe that requires a lot of time and some special techniques but so worth it! I've tried to simplify the process. Don't be upset if you don't get it right the first time.

    24 people made this

    Serves: 16 

    • Dough
    • 350g bread flour
    • 150g fine semolina
    • 10g coarse sea salt
    • 200ml water, or as needed
    • 20ml honey
    • Filling
    • 400g ricotta cheese
    • 240ml water
    • 100g caster sugar
    • 100g fine semolina
    • 2 large egg yolks
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel
    • For brushing
    • 120g unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 100g lard, room temperature
    • 30g icing sugar for dusting

    Prep:1hr  ›  Cook:30min  ›  Extra time:5hr chilling  ›  Ready in:6hr30min 

    1. Mix bread flour, 150g semolina and salt together in a large bowl; add water and honey and mix. The dough will be very dry, like pasta. If there is still dry flour after a few minutes of mixing, add up to 2 teaspoons more water to ensure all the flour is moistened.
    2. Turn dough onto a counter. Knead a few minutes until the dough is smooth, firm and not sticky. While firm, the dough must also be workable. Divide the dough into four pieces and flatten. Cover dough with cling film when not working with it. Run each piece through a pasta machine on its widest setting a dozen or so times, folding in half and rotating the sheet 45 degrees each time (see tip). Dust with flour very sparingly, only if needed to prevent tearing. Repeat with all four pieces. Wrap dough in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.
    3. To make the filling: Blend ricotta cheese in a food processor until smooth. Boil 240ml water and stir in the sugar. Sift in the semolina, whisking to avoid clumping. It will immediately thicken up. Reduce heat to low, fold in the ricotta and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
    4. Remove pan from heat and return filling to food processor. While processor is running, add egg yolks, one at a time, until fully combined. Add vanilla, cinnamon and candied orange peel and pulse to mix. Transfer filling to a bowl. Cool to room temperature, cover with cling film and refrigerate.
    5. Divide each dough piece into four pieces. Cover dough with cling film. Place clean kitchen tea towels over a work surface. Lay each sheet of dough on the tea towels while you roll out the remaining sheets.
    6. Run each piece through the pasta machine on progressively smaller settings until dough is as thin as possible. After running it through the pasta machine, stretch each sheet as wide as you can without tearing. Dough sheets should stretch to three times their original width and be so thin you can see through it.
    7. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Melt butter and lard. Place the first sheet of pastry on the parchment. Brush the dough with the butter-lard mixture. Lay the second sheet above the first, overlapping by 1cm or so. Roll the sheets up into a tight cylinder, leaving about 2cm to overlap the next sheet. Lay the third dough sheet on the parchment, overlapping the second sheet and brush with the butter mixture. Continue rolling up the log of dough, repeating until all the dough pieces are brushed with the butter mixture and rolled up. Wrap dough log in the parchment sheet and wrap entirely with cling film; refrigerate for 2 hours.
    8. Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place filling mixture in a piping bag or a plastic freezer bag with the corner snipped off.
    9. Cut cylinder of dough into 1cm slices; you should have 16 to 20 pieces. Holding the dough in both hands, use your thumbs to flatten the dough piece from the centre outwards. Form flattened slice into a cone shape. Pipe filling into centre, close partially, and repeat with remaining dough and filling.
    10. Bake in preheated oven until dough turns golden brown and starts to 'peel' back from the pastries, 20 to 30 minutes. You can baste the pastries a couple of times with the leftover butter and lard mixture during baking, if you like. Dust with icing sugar before serving.


    It's important that you feed the dough through the pasta machine one way, fold it, turn it 45 degrees, then put it through again, as you're really kneading the dough the first number of times you put it through the machine on the widest settings, before resting the dough.

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