Lama Puff - sfogliatella
The typical production area of this “sfogliatella” or puff is the municipal territory of Lama dei Peligni. Unlike other local patisserie, the production of this particular speciality has gone no further than this village, probably due to its complex preparation method. However, similar products are also prepared in other mountain villages of the Province of Chieti, although with different ingredients, shapes or methods. These puffs are oval in shape and, as the very name suggests, the crisp pastry enclosing the filling is flaky, comprising several layers, and gives them a particularly inviting appearance. The pastry encloses a delicious filling of grape jam and black cherry jam with must syrup, walnuts and cocoa, which give it a very distinctive aroma and ensure the puffs do not dry out for a long time.
To make the puff pastry a well of flour is prepared on a pastry board or marble work surface and mixed with an egg and the amount of melted lard contained by a whole egg shell, the same amount of salted water and a coffee spoon of sugar, the same amount of flour as lard and water. The pastry is flattened with a rolling pin until a very thin sheet is obtained and this is coated all over with the lard, then the sheet is pleated in 10cm folds, from both ends, greasing the upturned surfaces, until the centre of the sheet is reached. At this point the pastry is rolled, beginning at the narrowest edge, so that a tube forms, and this is left to rest in a cool place so the lard can solidify. Later the pastry is sliced into equal parts that are flattened with a warm rolling pin, ensuring the pieces become oval in the centre, where the filling will be spooned. The puff pastry is then folded over the filling and the edges are sealed. The puffs are baked for about half an hour at 150°C.
The filling is made by mixing in a pan, over a low heat, 250g of grape jam, 250g of black cheery jam, 100g of ground, toasted walnuts, 100g of bitter cocoa, 50g of crushed biscuits and two espresso cups of coffee. After cooking the puffs are an attractive golden colour and are dusted lightly with icing sugar before serving. The delicate flavour of the pastry and the stronger taste of the filling are distinctive features of the “sfogliatella di Lama” and make it a gourmet speciality.
These puffs were invented in the late 1800s, when Francesca D’Antona, a noblewoman of S. Maria Capua Vetere, asked her daughter-in-law Donna Anna di Guglielmo, who was born in Civitella Messer Raimondo, a hamlet near Lama, for the recipe for Neapolitan puffs, as the younger woman had lived in Naples before moving to Lama in 1902 with her husband, Baron Tabassi. Donna Anna substantially modified the recipe for the more famous Neapolitan puffs, adapting it to her personal tastes, but probably also to the availability of local ingredients. She enriched the flaky pastry with lard (which is widely used in traditional cuisine) to make it softer, while largely modifying the filling with the use of local products, such as jam made from Montepulciano grapes (from the most widespread vine in Abruzzo) and black cherries, which grow wild on the slopes of the Majella massif that towers above the village, along with must syrup and walnuts. This simple yet refined delicacy was offered to high-ranking dinner guests when they met to celebrate particular festivals, and the closely-guarded recipe never left Palazzo Tabassi. It was not until the 1960s that the recipe became popular with the people of Lama, thanks to the Tabassi family’s cook, who revealed the secret to several women of the village, who then made the puff for general consumption.