When time stands still…sfogliatelle ricce

Mimosa over a wall on the Greek island Lesvos

An odd thing happens when you travel to far-off places teeming with exotic foods, restaurants and local delicacies. When there, you are so immersed in heady foreign culture that you struggle to believe or understand why any of the talented folks back home have not taken cue from some of the simplest yet overwhelmingly impressive foods and culinary concepts elsewhere. There’s a reason for that. Eventually you realise that french cannelles, portuguese pasteis or greek bougatsa will never taste as effortlessly made and plainly perfect as it did there. It’s just one of those things, and your taste-memory can never quite re-capture it, it remains localised and therefore, neccesitates travel.

Travel exoticises the everyday. I once read in a memoir of a deliquent Havanan inhabitant in the 80’s, how he despised the crumbling buildings, rotting tenements and peeling paint  ’caused’  by the Communist regime. He recounts though, how the handful of tourists that do visit Cuba, spend nearly all their time in the sun taking ‘artful’ pictures of the decay in Cuba. We see things, taste things and experience things differently when we travel, which are probably the best reasons why we should travel in the first place…

All of that aside, whilst I am spending an awfully long time ‘in transit’ it seems, between my travels, I am breaking all the rules and making all the difficult pastries that intrigue me – the ones reserved only for a practiced hand or someone with unlimited time…in this case, sfogliatelle (I can’t find a suitable english name!) because I have the time!

You start off by making a butter-free pastry. Roll it out thinly and then start stretching it out with your knuckles, in strudel dough-stretching fashion, until it’s almost as thin as phyllo pastry ( newsprint needs to be visible under it, although mine started tearing at the edges!). Brush with butter. Cut this pastry into 4 ruler-wide ribbons and roll up, in the end you want a tight scroll, which needs to be chilled at least 4 hrs, to cool the butter between the pastry layers. Whilst you are chilling the pastry you should prepare the traditional semolina custard, although I made a lemon creme patisserie, which worked just as well.

The dough being stretched over a table, brushed with butter
The dough roll (it should be even tighter than my feeble effort...)

Later, cut the roll into 2cm slices, and keep these cool and covered as you work.


To finish, place the slice in your palm, and slowly start pushing it outwards, gradually forming a ‘cup’ . No, this isn’t easy, and takes a while. When your cup has had all the layers pushed out, spoon a teaspoon of custard inside, seal, brush with butter and place on a baking sheet. In this fashion, continue for the remainder of the afternoon…

After about 15-17 minutes  at 200C they will SO be worth it, with all the little layers puffed out to resemble a golden little clam, and the pastry all flaky and chewy at the same time! However, it has to be said here that you’ll still have to close your eyes as you eat to convince yourself that its morning in a pastry shop in Naples…

The sfogliatelle - best eaten when hot and the kitchen smells like browning butter!

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Caitlin says:

    Glad to see you have had some extra time to make some delicious labor intensive pastries! They look very good, and I am very jealous that I wasn’t able to taste one! Keep up the blogging, it is nice to hear what you are up to! And I agree, food/wine always tastes better in the place of origin!

    x Caitlin

  2. Dani says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been wondering how these are made.

  3. Sorina says:

    Beautiful!!! So, so cute!!!
    I will try to prepare very soon!!
    Many thank’s for sharing!!
    Regards from Bucharest! :))

  4. Sorina says:

    I discover, is not the quantities for recipe,
    I’m a “llittle” cook 🙂 don’t have much experience ….

  5. epicureaddict says:

    Thanks for reading! I didn’t add recipe quantities as there are a few recipes on the internet – i thought it was more important to show the way of making them and the technique – that is the most difficult part! Good luck – I am posting another custard-based cake today – its amazing and you should try it I will post the recipe as well!

  6. Sorina says:

    Yes, a BIG LIKE !!! Le sfogliatelle sono belissime!!!! Complimenti!!

  7. peterpipers says:

    Sfogliatelle look amazing.

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