These seashell-shaped pastries from southern Italy are regarded as a challenge for every good pastry chef. A multi-layered roll of pastry is sliced, then opened out to make a clam shell and baked with a rich, sweet ricotta filling.
Hands-on time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Skill level: Challenging
For the pastry:
500g very strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
about 125g lard, softened, for brushing
about 50g unsalted butter or vegetable fat, softened, for shaping
icing sugar, for dusting
For the filling:
250g ricotta cheese
250ml whole milk
100g caster sugar
2 good pinches of salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
40g fine semolina
2 egg yolks
finely grated zest of 1 small unwaxed orange
100g 70% dark chocolate chips
4 pieces of stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
You will also need:
Small piece of cheesecloth or muslin
2 large baking sheets lined with baking paper
Step 1 – Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Make a well in the centre and, with the mixer on its slowest setting, pour in 165ml of water. As the dough starts to come together, gradually add more water, up to about 60ml, to make a firm dough.
Step 2 – Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for 3 minutes, then cover with an upturned bowl and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Repeat the kneading and resting twice more, until the dough is smooth and pliable. Divide the dough into 8, wrap each piece in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Step 3 – Take 1 portion of dough and knead it to a flat disc. Run it through the widest setting on the pasta roller then fold in 3, turn it 90 degrees and run through the roller again. Repeat 3 more times, until the dough is very smooth and pliable. Adjust the rollers to the next widest setting and run the dough through again. Keep rolling out the dough, decreasing the width setting each time, until on the narrowest setting.
Step 4 – Place the dough strip on the worktop and gently pull it out – first from one end, then at the centre portion to double the width, then at the other end. The dough will be an odd shape and may have a tear, but that’s fine. Brush very lightly with softened lard.
Step 5 – Tightly roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, starting at one end, and slightly stretching the dough by pulling towards you as go. It will have a thick middle and 2 straggly ends. Gently pull on the ends to make the roll a bit longer and thinner.
Step 6 – Roll out a second portion of dough, exactly as before. Place the previously rolled dough at one end of the new strip. Use the new strip to extend the roll, pulling and stretching as you roll, as in Step 5.
Step 7 – Repeat until you have rolled out, stretched, brushed with lard and rolled together all 8 dough portions to make one big roll. Then, gently pull, squeeze and stretch the roll to about 36 x 6cm, with straggly ends. Brush the whole roll with lard, then wrap in cling film and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Step 8 – To make the filling, line a sieve with cheesecloth or muslin and set it over a bowl. Put the ricotta into the sieve, cover with the excess cheesecloth, set a small saucer, then a heavy weight on top. Chill for at least 1–2 hours to drain the cheese.
Step 9 – Pour the milk into a medium pan, add the sugar, salt and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Sprinkle in the semolina, stirring continuously over a medium–low heat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. Tip into a heatproof bowl, press a piece of cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and leave until cold.
Step 10 – Tip the cooled semolina mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on a medium–high speed until very smooth. Add the egg yolks and the drained ricotta and combine thoroughly, then mix in the orange zest, chocolate and ginger. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and chill until ready to assemble.
Step 11 – To assemble, unwrap the dough and cut off the straggly ends. Cut the roll into discs about 1cm thick. Grease your fingers, hold a disc between your thumbs and forefingers, and gently start to separate the layers – starting from the centre and working out to the edges – to form a cone shape, with the centre of the disc making the point, and creating an opening of about 7cm in diameter.
Step 12 – Spoon in a heaped teaspoon of filling, making sure the filling reaches down into the tip. Gently pinch the opening to seal it. Repeat with the remaining discs, then arrange them on the lined baking sheets and chill for 20 minutes, or until firm. Heat the oven to 230°C/210°C fan/450°F/Gas 8.
Step 13 – Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and reduce the temperature to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/ Gas 7. Bake for a further 5–8 minutes, until golden and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack, dust with icing sugar and leave to cool. Serve just warm.
This is a recipe from The Great British Bake Off: Get Baking for Friends and Family. For more like it, buy the book.