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Kitchen Mailbox: Sfogliatelle are fancy little cookies sure to impress

Thursday, July 13, 2000

Everyone should have a cookie recipe tucked away for a special occasion. Our recipe today falls under that category. Sfogliatelle (SFOH-l' yah-TEH-leh) is a puff pastry cup filled with ricotta cheese, semolina flour and lemon.

Sfogliatelle, or little sheets, is a popular breakfast item in Italy, according the "Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink" by John Mariani. Mary Ann Espisito, author of "Ciao Italia," says that Sfogliatelle Della Nobilita ("pastry of the nobles") was made for noble families of the Renaissance. We'll take their word for it-what we know about this cookie is it is pretty and delicious.

Sfogliatelle calls for puff pastry, either homemade or frozen. (We found it at Giant Eagle in the frozen section with desserts.) We opted for the packaged; it saves a lot of time and it's easy to work with. Frozen puff pastry comes two sheets per package. But if you're a fanatic about baking from scratch, write or e-mail us, and we'll send you the homemade version.

Sfogliatelle also calls for semolina flour (found at Giant Eagle). Semolina flour is made from durum wheat and is more coarsely ground than all-purpose flour.

About the recipe: It makes about 16 large cookies, but we wanted a smaller, daintier cookie and a larger yield (about 30 cookies). Here's what we did:

We used three sheets of puff pastry instead of two. (With the leftover pastry sheet we made a quick streusel with fresh blueberries, which took all of 5 minutes.)

We cut our dough in 1 1/2-inch sections instead of 2-inch ones. Our cookie cups had about a 2-inch-wide rim, and we used about 1 tablespoon of filling instead of 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Puff pastry loses it flakiness in a day or two during the hot, muggy summer months, so the cookies should be served the same day they are baked. They can be prepared ahead of time: Place the filled unbaked cookies on cookie trays, wrap in foil and freeze. To bake, unwrap cookies and bake frozen, adding about 10 to 12 minutes to the regular baking time of 15 minutes.

This recipe was sent in by Sandra Smerilli of Monessen for Darlene Tchirkow of Mt. Lebanon. Sfogiatelle is from "Ciao Italia" by Mary Ann Espisito.

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Sfogliatelle

1 1-pound package frozen puff pastry
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Confectioners' sugar
Cinnamon
Parchment paper, optional
Filling:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, well drained
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Defrost puff pastry according to package directions. To make the filling:

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium high heat. Add the semolina flour in a thin, steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and thick, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Add the cheese, egg, sugar and lemon zest to the mixture and beat well. Set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll 1 sheet of pastry out to a 16-by-22-inch rectangle on a floured and preferably cold surface (marble slab works well). Starting at a short end, brush one third of the sheet with the melted butter and begin rolling the pastry sheet tightly like a jelly roll; brush the remaining two thirds of the sheet with butter and roll up. Cut the roll into 2-inch-thick slices. Form each piece into a small seashell shape by pushing your thumbs against the center of the piece and spreading it out. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons filling.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and sprinkle a line of cinnamon down center of each Sfogliatelle. Makes about 16.

Requests

Lois Yates of Mt. Lebanon writes: "My friend Bill received a gift that had crumpets and other food items. He said they were delicious. Do you have a recipe for crumpets?"

Genevieve Hissem of Oakmont would like a recipe for green pepper jelly.

-- Compiled by Arlene Burnett

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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