The Virgins Breasts Pastries

Made in Sambuca di Sicilia

Paste delle Vergini

 

Around the year 1725, the marquees of Sambuca gave to Suor Virginia the assignment to create a new dessert: she was a nun –baker, in the Monastery “Collegio di Maria” in Sambuca in the province of Agrigento.  

The occurrence to celebrate was the wedding of the area’s lord, marquis Beccardelli, the marquees son. 

Lake Arancio and Sambuca in the background 

 From:The Sambuca Newspaper http://www.valledelbelice.net  

 

Suor Virginia wanted to offer to the marquees a different sweet and created in her mind a cake with the smell of jasmine like the spring air in the Valley of Belice, a layer of filling made with a cream using the delicious and rich local milk, another layer of preserve prepared with the deep green colored flash of the zucchine growing in the vegetable garden and finally some chocolate shavings, which it was whispered to be an aphrodisiac. 

She considered a crunchy cookie to enclose the cream and to finish with a light glace flavored with the zest of the lemons that were growing in the monastery’s garden. 

As for the form, the legend is that Suor Virginia was trying to recreate the outline of the hills, she could observe from her window, shaped like a women breasts.  

The Romans offered fritters in the form of breast of virgin to Juno, the goddess of childbirth and of women fertility. 

We believe that because the breasts of virgin were perceived as symbol of childbirth and women fertility, Suor Virginia made the decision to follow this popular credence and the minni baked by Suor Virginia- Virginia means virgin- were born: i minni ri Virginia, and later the minni di vergine: Virginia’s breasts. 

These pastries are referred as Paste delle Vergini, Virgins’ pastries in the historical novel and movie “The Leopard”, “Il Gattopardo” by Tommaso di Lampedusa, in fact, the film was set in the Palazzo Cuto’ in Santa Margherita Belice, only a few miles from the town of Sambuca. 

Breasts of virgin

The minni di vergine are made with an outer layer of pasta frolla (shortbread dough) stuffed with lemon flavored egg less cream (Bianco Mangiare), with preserved pumpkin and diced candied citron in addition to chocolate shavings. Each ingredient should be placed in layers to differentiate and enhance the taste of each component; the pastry are covered with a light lemon glace and decorated with rainbow colored sprinkles.  

Makes about 12 pastries

INGREDIENTS    

For the Shells

  • 1 ¼ lb. all purpose flour (5 cups) 
  • ½ lb. granulated sugar (1 cup) 
  • ½ lb. lard or sweet butter (1 cup or 2 sticks)or half lard & half butter 
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 
  • 1 egg plus 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten 
  • grated rinds (zest) from 1 lemon 
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking powder 
  • ¼ teaspoon of dried ground ginger 
  • pinch of salt 
  • Extra flour for dusting or to add 

 

For the Filling

Squash Preserve. See recipe. Prepare ½ recipe, a day ahead. Mix into it 

  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon 
  • 5 drops Jasmine flavor; itcan be found in Thai food shops 1oz. about $4)  

Egg Less Custard Prepare ½ recipe, a day ahead.  

  • Diced Citron 2 oz.  
  • Bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate shavings 

 

 

PREPARATION

The Pastry Dough 

 

Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well or place into a bowl. Add the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, honey, ginger, zest of lemon, pinch of salt and the baking powder. 

Making the crust

Use your hands and mix it until it will shape into coarse crumbs of diverse sizes.

Knead and bring the mixture together to form a ball. Fold and press with the palm of your hands; do not over mix. Do not handle dough more than necessary. If dough crumbles, and feels to dry because mixture was over mixed add a few teaspoon cold water, one at a time; if dough is sticky, add little more flour.

Form dough into a single mass and cover with a clean kitchen rag or with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

 

The Shells 

Divide dough in 2 pieces and knead briefly to compact; on a lightly floured working surface, roll out one piece to ¼ of an inch thick.

Using a round cutter (or the rim of a glass) 4 inches across, cut 10 to 12 circles and set on a lightly floured pan.  

Knead the other piece of dough with any scrapes, compact it and roll it out ¼ of an inch thick. Using a round cutter (or the rim of a glass) 4 inches across cut 10 to 12 circles and set on a lightly floured pan.

Cut into circles

Set leftover scraps on the side.

 

 

The Breasts of Virgin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Brush half of the disks with the egg wash; place 1 tablespoon of the egg less custard cream in the center of each disk put on top a tablespoon of the squash preserve, sprinkle a few pieces of diced candied citron and  some chocolate shavings.

Cover each pasty with another disk and press all around to seal.

Place each pastry onto a greased baking sheet 2 inches apart and as you transfer them, with your cupped hands, try to shape into a semi sphere with a culminating point resembling a breast.

Very importantly: make sure that the cream is at the bottom layer of the pastry.

Wash the pastries with egg white. Use the leftover scrapes to crown the top of each breast with a piece of dough the size and shape of a cherry to resemble the nipple.

Bake the pastries for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a golden color.  

Place pastries on a rack on top of a clean baking pan, to cool.

 

 

The Finish

Prepare a lemon flavored glaze. (See recipe)
Cool the pastries and afterward u
se a brush to lightly cover each with the glaze.
Garnish with colored rainbow sprinkles and place each minni di vergine on a small paper doily or a small serving dish. Serve at room temperature.