What are Sfogliatelle?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Sfogliatelle is a kind of ridged Italian pastry made out of a dough quite similar to phyllo dough and stuffed with sweet, creamy filling. The name itself means multiple layers or multiple leaves in Italian, a reference to the look of the pastry after it has been baked. During the baking process, the dough that is used to make sfogliatelle separates, creating this appearance. As with most types of Italian cuisine, there are numerous regional variations on this pastry. There are even a few variations in which the pastry is savory instead of sweet.

Orange peel is often included in sfogliatelle.
Orange peel is often included in sfogliatelle.

There are various kinds of fillings that can be used to stuff sfogliatelle. The creaminess of the fillings comes from the use of ricotta cheese, or whipped cream. This cream may be flavored with almond paste or with ingredients such as candied lemon peel or orange peel, which lend a citrusy flavor to the pastry. In addition to nut and citrus flavors, the filling of sfogliatelle may also be flavored with vanilla.

Sfogliatelle is often stuffed with a creamy ricotta cheese filling.
Sfogliatelle is often stuffed with a creamy ricotta cheese filling.

Before the sfogliatelle are placed into an oven for baking, the dough is wrapped around the filling. After the pastries have been baked, they usually have shapes similar to cones or triangles. When they are finished baking, sfogliatelle are golden in color, much like lightly toasted white bread. For an extra level of sweetness, many pastry chefs top these flaky treats with powdered sugar.

This pastry is rather difficult to make and is also rather time consuming, which is one of the reasons that it is not widely produced. Many believe that sfogliatelle were invented in the Santao Rosa monastery in Salerno. It is also believed that they were first created in the 1600s. Based on the time when they were created, when most cooking took more time than it does today, spending so much time on a single batch of pastries may not have seemed like such a burden.

Those who enjoy sfogliatelle often agree that they are the best when they are fresh out of the oven. Of course, this is not always possible. In order to enjoy warm sfogliatelle, simply heat them in the oven for a few minutes before serving them. This can be done with pastries that are made at home as well as pastries that are purchased from a professional bakery. It is generally believed that warming these pastries in the oven is better than warming them in a microwave.

Some recipes for sfogliatelle call for paste that's made from ground almonds.
Some recipes for sfogliatelle call for paste that's made from ground almonds.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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