Virgins Breasts Pastries
in Sambuca di Sicilia
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.
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
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
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
For the Shells
- 1 ¼ lb. all purpose flour
- ½ lb. granulated sugar (1
- ½ lb. lard or sweet butter
(1 cup or 2 sticks)or half lard & half butter
- 1 tablespoon of
- 1 egg plus 3 egg yolks,
- grated rinds (zest) from 1
- ¼ teaspoon of baking
- ¼ teaspoon of dried ground
- pinch of
- Extra flour for dusting or
For the Filling
recipe. Prepare ½
recipe, a day ahead. Mix into it
- ¼ teaspoon of
- 5 drops Jasmine
flavor; itcan be found in Thai food shops 1oz. about
Egg Less Custard Prepare ½ recipe, a day ahead.
- Bittersweet or
semi-sweet chocolate shavings.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
Prepare a lemon flavored glaze. (See recipe)
Cool the pastries and
afterward use a brush to lightly cover each with the
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.