An establishment called Pintauro has been making sfogliatelle in Naples for something like 400 years. Isn’t that fact amazing in itself? I ate sfogliatelle many times when I lived in Rome, and I see them occasionally in the U.S. in specialty bakeries, sometimes called “lobster tails”. They are made up of umpteen layers of flaky pastry baked into a crispy treat, always in the same seashell shape. In Rome, I’d had them most often stuffed with custard, and sometimes chocolate. In Naples, at Pintauro, where they make the original recipe, they are stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese studded with orange zest and lots of vanilla bean flavor. I was so lucky to get mine hot out of the oven. It was so hot in fact, I had to break it open, and let it cool off a bit. When you bite in, there’s the crispy, buttery, flaky outer layer and then you reach the creamy, gooey, center. Oh my! I’d never had one quite like that in Rome!
This is a special Easter time treat. As such, it was being served by the slice in most coffee bars I went to. But there was also a shop near the convent where the recipe supposedly originated from, that seemed to be selling nothing but. I figured this must be the best place to buy a whole one. It’s a very interesting pastry. It has an exterior crust, but the inside is filled with a grain akin to our wheat barley which has been cooked in milk, making it into something like a sturdy rice pudding. This mixture is combined with ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and orange zest along with other spices and poured into the crust and baked. It has the weight and density of a New York style cheesecake, but with the added texture of the grains. It’s seriously delicious, and great with a cup of coffee.
Babas were everywhere! There is wide variation on the spelling, as well as the soaking liquid, so bear with me here. Babas come in many sizes, but always in the same little mushroomy shape. They are made with yeast, so they have almost a bread-like texture. Sometimes, they are stuffed with cream, but mostly they come soaked in rum or limoncello. These too, were being served in all the coffee shops. In this photo you see them on the bottom two shelves. They can be purchased soaking in rum in jars, or in various sizes, stuffed, or not.
So now that I need a shot of espresso, I’m going to end my blog post here and go fix myself one. I really enjoyed all my little Neapolitan sweet treats. I hope you enjoyed reading about them. Would you like to taste them for yourself? Come with me to Naples! My Amalfi Coast tour is booking NOW for Sept. 23-Oct.3. Other dates are available if those dates don’t work for you. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org Let me help you satisfy your sweet tooth.