Baker’s Challenge – November & Happy Thanksgiving
On this Thanksgiving Day in America, we give thanks for both the freedoms with which we are endowed by God, but also pay tribute with sincere gratitude to our Italian grandparents who sacrificed all to enable their families to live in freedom and peace.
As luck would have it, this month’s Baker’s Challenge is Sfogliatelle Ricci (pron: sef-oh-ya-tel-ay ree-chee), one of our favorite Italian dessert pastries. Ricci translate into “curly” in English, but there really isn’t a one-for-one translation into English for sfogliatelle, so we decided to simply translate it for you into something much easier: “ohmygoshthisissodeliciousIwantmorecurlywhatchamacallitsnow”.
Anyway, this challenge was to make a homemade puff pastry (not easy) with a homemade ricotta (really easy) filling. Now, if you’ve never made puff pastry from scratch, bring your razor because you will need a shave because it is so labor and time intensive. Knowing that Thanksgiving doesn’t include time for making puff pastry, we decided to cheat on this and, for your benefit, we tried it with store-bought frozen puff pastry to see if they would be as good. We can state with absolute certainty that sfogliatelle ricci with frozen puff pastry is just as light and flaky and we could have simply pawned it off as 100% from scratch. But we were taught to always tell the truth, so truth it is. However, feel free to take credit. Our gift to you this holiday season! Use store-bought frozen puff pastry and it’s a snap to make and dee-lish to eat. When they are done, sfogliatelle ricci are not very sweet, so we added micro-mini chocolate chips to our filling and then dusted these with powdered sugar, but you could also drizzle with white or milk chocolate to make it an even sweeter treat! Just try ’em. They are easy and really, really good.
So Happy Thanksgiving to all of our dear friends as we give thanks for those who sacrificed so much that we might be here! Enjoy!
Ciao for Now!
V & K
PS – This recipe is made in 3 parts; make the ricotta, make the filling, then roll the puff pastry & form the little globs of goodness.
Step 1: Homemade Ricotta (Makes 2 cups)
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup lemon juice (from 1 1/2 to 2 lemons), 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar, or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (available from cheese-making suppliers)
- 1 teaspoon salt, optional
- Pour the milk and cream into a 4-quart pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 200°F, monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer. The milk will get foamy and start to steam; remove it from heat if it starts to boil.
- Remove the milk from heat. Pour in the lemon juice or vinegar (or citric acid) and the salt. Stir gently to combine.
- Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey — dip your slotted spoon into the mix to check. If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.
- Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)
- Let the ricotta drain for 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how wet or dry you prefer your ricotta. If the ricotta becomes too dry, you can also stir some of the whey back in before using or storing it.
- Fresh ricotta can be used right away or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.
STEP 2: Semolina-Ricotta Filling
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup semolina (you can use finely ground white corn grits if you don’t have semolina around the house. It works just fine)
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup crystalized ginger
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
- Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the grits, whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.
- Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about ½ inch thick. Leave to cool.
- When cool, crumble into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, and vanilla. Beat until very smooth and creamy.
- Stir in the crystalized ginger and chocolate chips.
- Scrape into a container and refrigerate up to 3 days.
Step 3: Assemble the sfogliatelle ricci (Yield: 14-18 pastries; 2-3 per serving)
You will need a large/long workspace for this. We used the dining room table for this though surely someone will be more creative with limited space!
- 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- Semolina-ricotta filling (see above)
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece and roll until you enlarge the square to 2x the original size. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip
With your long strip of dough, brush it liberally with melted butter. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, start stretching and rolling the next sections until all the dough is finished. Glue the end of the dough using melted butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Continue with the other sheets of puff pastry.
Preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or Silpat
Place one slice of dough on your floured workspace.
Pick up the piece and insert your thumbs on the inside with your forefingers on the outside meanwhile gently stretch the center to make it more into the shape of a cone. You don’t want the layers to actually separate. Holding the cone in one hand, spoon some of the ricotta filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly butter the opening closed. Pinch the ends or tuck them under. Just make sure that during the baking process, the ricotta will not ooze out.
Place your triangle onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each with the melted butter. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown. Allow to cool then dust with powder sugar, cocoa, or drizzle with melted chocolate. Serve at room temperature.