Almost there…

I initially thought these were the ones, but it seems that a.) I didn’t put enough filling in them and b.) my filling needs to be thicker. Also I think I need still more layers (I’m pretty sure I can stretch the dough a little thinner). Where are Jo, Jo, and Joan when I need them? Daddy has a pastry emergency!…

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Getting Better…

I’m zeroing in on a more promising dough formula. I still have some technique issues (I think I need to lubricate the layers a bit more) but the trajectory is in the right direction. Patience, please!…

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Ehem.

Lots going wrong here, but the problem at the center of it all is a lack of elasticity in my dough. This stems from the fact that it’s so darn rich. All the fat is lubricating the gluten (protein) molecules in the dough, preventing them from linking up with one another and forming a stretchy network. …

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Sfogliatelle Filling

This filling is mostly used for sfogliatelle riccia, but works nicely as a bake-in filling in other applications. It’s a touch on the fussy side, but the results are worth it. You’ll need:

2 cups whole milk
pinch salt
4.5 ounces (3/4 cup) semolina or 3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) durum flour
7 ounces (1 cup) ricotta cheese
4 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) sugar
2 egg yolks
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) candied citrus peels or candied cherries, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


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Proto-Laminated Dough

The laminating technique that produces the dough for sfogliate riccia may be the world’s oldest. As you may have noted from the posts below, the method involves stretching a rich, flexible dough to paper-thinness, rolling it up into a log that’s about two inches across, then cutting it into slices. This method predates folding-style lamination by a minimum of 50 years, having been documented by the Belgian master chef Lancelot de Casteau in his book Ouverture de cuisine in 1603 (folded laminated dough was first mentioned in Le Pâtissier françois written by François Pierre de la Varenne in 1653). However it’s probable that roll-style lamination is much older than that.


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Blowing Up Cornbread

Reader Glenda writes to say that she recently made a mistake with her cornbread: she put in too much chemical leavening (exactly how much she doesn’t say). Yet the bread with the extra baking soda turned out virtually identical to the cornbread she makes with the normal, lesser amount. Why is that? she asks. It all has to do with gluten, Glenda. Or rather, the lack thereof.

Cornbread recipes typically call for lot of leavening. The reason: because corn flour has no gluten in it. In wheat flour doughs and batters, gluten creates an elastic batter that traps and holds little bubbles of CO2 and steam. As those bubbles continue to heat, they inflate, and the bread rises. A batter made from corn meal doesn’t have that elasticity, so its ability to trap and hold gas and steam is greatly diminished. Indeed, most of the gas and steam created during baking simply escapes out the top and sides. Yet it rises…why?


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Sfogliatelle Recipe

Rendered leaf lard is an ideal fat for this, and is arguably the most traditional. However don’t hesitate to use butter since it performs largely the same. I’ll probably use a blend of the two since I like a little butter in a flaky pastry, knowadimsayin? But do what you like. Trying this recipe at all is a commendable deed, so why split hairs?

The recipe has tow parts: the dough and the filling. Don’t mind if I don’t write down the shaping directions yet, since I haven’t actually decided what I’ll do. I know I won’t use a pasta machine, that much is certain, but beyond that anything goes. Here’s what you’ll need:


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Where do sfogliatelle come from?

The short answer is the region of Campania in southwestern Italy. Naples is the capital of that region, and sflogliatelle have been enjoyed there for at least several centuries. The Pintauro pastry shop in Naples says they invented sfogliatelle in the year 1785, indeed they’ve gone so far as to inscribe the claim on their building’s outside wall. However there is some debate as to whether the founder of the shop, one Pasquale Pintauro, wasn’t a better marketer than he was a baker, and whether instead of inventing sflogliatelle as he said, simply created a knockoff of a preparation that had been made for decades by nuns at the Santa Rosa convent in the nearby town of Conca dei Marini. …

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On the Two Kinds of Sfoglietelle

Several Italian readers have weighed in to point out that two kinds of sfogliatelle are made in Naples. There are riccia, or “curly” sfogliatelle (which is what I’m planning) and frolla, the “dough” style which is more like a cream puff. Had I known about the distinction I might well have chosen the much easier frolla style, declared victory and moved on to other things. But then the only sfogliatelle known in the States are the curly kind, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten away with it anyway. Sigh. …

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Kentucky Hills + Chicago Snow = World’s Best Sledding

The snow may not be as thick as it is in Boston, but it’s amazing what a foot of snow will do to shut down the City of Louisville. Schools, businesses and government offices are closed. It would all be so depressing if the sledding wasn’t so fantastic. As a Chicago boy I’m no stranger to snow. Heck I spent almost six years of my life in Minneapolis where I saw snow almost 30 inches thick on Halloween. And while the climate favors snow, the topography is mostly indifferent to sledders. Oh sure you can find some decent hills here and there in the Midwest. The City of Chicago once maintained some wicked toboggan runs (all now taken down due to too many cracked tailbones — killjoys!). …

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