Sfogliatella or Lobster tails in English was one of the show stoppers (I prefer treats) in the Great British Bake Off. What an interestingly complex baked sweet as the programme demonstrated. It is an Italian pastry in a shell filled with whatever sweetness you can care to pour into it. The word Sfogliatella means “small, thin leaf/layer”, as the pastry’s texture resembles stacked leaves according to the TV blurb. Incidentally, I’m reliably informed that a true ‘lobster tail’ refers to a US confection which is a cream filled pastry and considerably larger.
In terms of its history, the pastry was created by nuns in the 1600s in the monastery of Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini which is in the province of Salerno, Italy. The pastry web-sites tell us that Pasquale Pintauro bought the recipe. He was a pastry chef from Naples who set Sfogliatella on the path to greatness, making these pastries in his shop from 1818.
A study of the programme for making them is as follows:-
A dough is stretched or flattened using a pasta maker. The dough is brushed with butter, lard or any other form of shortening. Then rolled using a pin to form something similar to a Swiss Roll. Thinness is paramount as the many fine layers on baking are needed to create the basket effect. The roll is cut into discs and pockets are created which are then filled. Baking produces separated layers which miraculously hold together to form ridges rather like a scallop shell.
The fillings on show were many and varied, ranging from chocolate and almond to citrus etc.
Purchase this pastry in a variety of high end shops and delicatessens.