Making Italian pastries at home is not an easy process. It requires time, skill and patience. Italian puff pastry though it’s a perfect base to make a variety of Italian desserts.
You can combine Italian pastries with ricotta cheese to make traditional Cannoli from Sicily for example. Or you can combine your puff pastry with custard and other ingredients to make all sorts of tarts and cakes.
One of my favorite Italian desserts of all time is Sfogliatelle. These are small, crispy and fragrant Italian pastries originally from Naples in Southern Italy. You can find Sfogliatelle filled with any sorts of cream: custard cream, hazelnuts cream, pistachios cream. They are delicious and usually coated with icing sugar.
My Italian Grandma loves to use puff pastry to make apple tarts. She has two versions of her special apple tarts recipe: one is made with shortcrust pastry and the other with puff pastry. I can tell you that they are both delicious, besides she uses pine nuts, raisin and almonds which are ingredients that I love. Not only that she also has her secret custard cream recipe that really makes the difference in the taste of her very special and mouth-watering apple tarts.*
When you have puff pastry there really is no limits to what you can create. You can make Italian pastries of any kind including Sfogliatelle and Cannoli or you can combine your puff pastry with your favorite choice of fruits and berries or with all sorts of jams.
But there is however an easier recipe to make puff pastry and here is one that I’d like to suggest you so that you can have puff pastry available and then start creating some of the most delicious Italian pastries recipes.
To make the easier and faster version of puff pastry you’ll need:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup water
Since there is no sugar involved you can use this puff pastry to make any sorts of Italian pastries and Italian desserts or instead you can make Quiche and Savory pie.
- Mix 1/4 cup flour with butter. You can use your kitchen robot beater or you can do it with a spatula but make sure you don’t knead with you hands otherwise you’ll soften the dough too much.
- Place your dough in a baking sheet and actually fold the baking sheet like if you were wrapping the dough with it and then flatten the dough with a rolling pin. It should be about a half inch thick and in a rectangular shape.
- Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
- Now knead the rest of the flour with water and just a pinch of salt until you obtain another smooth and homogeneous dough.
- Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and then place the first dough you’ve made, the one that should be in the refrigerator, in the center of the flatten dough.
I hope this isn’t confusing: basically you should have two rectangular doughs by now. The first is the one you’ve refrigerated and the second one is laying on your cutting board. This second one should be larger than the first one and the first one should be laid on top of the second one. 🙂
- Wrap the first flatten dough around the second dough by folding both vertical sides.
- Cover with a baking sheet so that it doesn’t stick to your rolling pin and start flattening.
Actually with this last process you are blending the two doughs together.
- Once the dough is about a half inch thick, and in a rectangular shape again, fold it on one side and flatten it again. Then do so on each side so you should be folding and then flattening this dough about four times. Place the dough in the refrigerator for ten minutes in between each time.
I warned you at the beginning of this post: making puff pastry to create Italian pastries recipes takes patience!
- Now that you’ve folded and flattened the dough four times it should be ready to use for any Italian pastries or quiche or savory pie that you want to prepare. But before you use it make sure you refrigerate it for at least 45/50 minutes.
I’m really happy to give you another pastry recipe. This is kind of different from the most common Italian pastries but it’s really delicious and I would like you to try it and then let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I’ve had it.
This is one of my Aunt’s special Italian desserts. My Aunt lives in the Piedmont region – in northern Italy – and she loves cooking especially she loves baking all kind of pastries as well as shortcrust recipes, sweet Italian pastries and salted quiches.*
Pastry Tart with Figs Jam
First I have to tell you how much I love figs. They are naturally sweet and honeyed. The scent of figs and fig trees reminds me of the typical Mediterranean country paths those you usually have to cross if you want to reach one of those intact white beaches with crystal clear water plunged in the wild nature of Southern Italy.
June and September is when figs are in season.
You can make you own figs marmalade if you want to, it just takes a little more time but I think it’s worth it.
Here is how you make it:
you’ll need about 30 oz. figs (pealed and cut in four parts)
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. lemon zest
- Place cut and pealed figs in a pot. Add lemon zest, sugar and honey. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients.
- Cook for about 45 to 50 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Stir every now and then and when your jam reaches a perfect creamy texture turn the heat off.
- Let the jam cool and then pour it in a glass jar.
I suggest you to make some extra jam so that you can use it to make Pastry tart and you can also enjoy some at breakfast with bread and butter for instance or to make other delicious recipes.
To make the tart simply place the puff pastry you’ve made before on a baking tin previously buttered or covered with a baking sheet and bake it in preheated oven at 350°F. for about 10 minutes.
Then take it out of the oven and spread a thick layer of figs jam on the pastry. Add some crushed almonds on top and continue baking for another 30 minutes until thoroughly cooked.
Let it cool off for at least an hour before you slice it.
You can serve your pastry tart with figs jam for an afternoon gatherings with your friends and family or after dinner as a dessert. My aunt loves this Italian dessert at breakfast with a cup of tea.
When I was in Buffalo NY at Mrs France’s house, one day we had a party and we decided to make all sorts of Italian desserts and typical American pies.*
We made different Italian pastries recipes such as Sfogliatelle recipe with pistachio cream and Cannoli recipe with ricotta cheese.
Then we made all American pecan pie and pumpkin pie besides some delicious peanut butter blossoms with chocolate kisses on top. We also used puff pastry to make Baklava.
It was so much fun because we made a sort of contest out of this party where Italian desserts and American pies were to be given a vote…But anyways in the end both American and Italian desserts recipes were joint winners!
- Bottom line
I really hope you don’t get discouraged by the process and that you’ll try to make some homemade puff pastry. I think you’ll actually have fun with it and then you can prepare some recipes with it to enjoy with your loved ones.
* If you want to know more about Grandma’s fun stories and her delicious recipes make sure you get a copy of my book where you’ll also find her mouth-watering custard recipe and of course
Grandma’s favorite: Saturday’s afternoon Apple Tarts.
Italian Style Recipe: The Book. Coming soon…
* In the book you’ll find plenty of Italian recipes and stories from Mrs Frances and my Aunt in Piedmont, so don’t miss it.
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