The “sfogliatella” is the queen of Neapolitan pastry. Sfogliatella shortcrust pastry and curly sfogliatella: you cannot leave Naples without tasting these typical sweets. According to tradition it was invented by Pasquale Pintauro who at the beginning of the nineteenth century had a shop in via Toledo. We speak of course of the curly sfogliatella with that shape inherited from an ancient triangular block present in oriental cults in honor of Cybele as a symbol of female chastity. In the first centuries of the Christian era the cult from Cybele passed to Priapo, god of fecundity and after a very long hibernation due to the rigors of Christianity in the Middle Ages, the dough reappears in the kitchens of some cloistered nuns of the Baroque seventeenth century, always as feminine sweet. Historical testimonies also tell us that filled puff pastry sweets were present even before the monastic baroque in the papal kitchens of the Renaissance. A beautiful story intertwined with myths and legends.
Originally filled with custard and black cherry, from 1818 Pasquale Pintauro changed the recipe to the one we are used to today. The Neapolitan curly sfogliatella is made up of a crunchy casing and a filling based on ricotta and semolina. It differs from shortcrust pastry only in the outer shell: the latter is in fact made with a dough similar to shortcrust pastry.
There are some variations of the Neapolitan sfogliatella called lobster tails, which however are longer and filled with cream, chantilly or chocolate cream.
The processing is very complex for the preparation of the puff pastry, for which at least five layers are made separated by melted lard; even today it is made manually, as well as in confectionery, in homes, where the recipe is handed down from generation to generation.
The “sfogliatella riccia” is therefore a kind of shell of puff pastry superimposed with a prodigy of manual skill formed by thin layers made crunchy by cooking. Inside there is a consistent cream obtained by amalgamating semolina, ricotta, eggs and sugar, with the addition of candied fruit, orange blossom water, vanilla and cinnamon.
Masterfully working puff pastry requires skill, strength and long practice. It starts with a hard dough made up of water and semolina which is rolled out so as to be thin as a veil, spread with lard, and finally rolled up. Then begins the long phase in which “the cylinder is stretched”. From this cylinder, thanks to the manual skill of the pastry chef, we obtain the characteristic shell-shaped shells stuffed with the filling before being baked. A heavenly sweet. Tasting is believing.