Breast of Saint Agatha


Cassatine di Sant' Agata

 Cassatelle di Sant'Agata

 

Saint Agatha, the Patron Saint of Catania, had dedicated her virginity to God. Because she rejected the amorous proposals of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted. Being a Christian she was tortured and had her breasts severed off.
To commemorate this occurrence, pastries are baked and made in Catania in honor of their Saint Patron and are called Saint Agatha Breasts or cassatelle for modesty and respect. 

At one time, these pasties were baked by the nuns in the convents, however at present they can only be bought in pasty shops and bakeries.

In fact, the majority of the nuns are dedicated to teaching and nursing and because of the scarce number of new nuns available, many monasteries are closed and only a few are left open, mostly in the countryside, baking and selling few delicacies to the public.

The breasts of Saint Agatha consist of a delicate outer layer of pasta frolla (shortbread dough) in the shape of a breast, stuffed with custard, zuccata, chopped almond or pistachio, covered with pink icing and topped with a half candied cherry; another version is filled with ricotta and covered with white icing and topped with a half candied cherry or a chocolate chip. Some bakers use different filling and make the icing in a variety of colors.

I will present the recipes for two types of Saint Agatha Breasts.

 

 
Saint Agatha Breasts 

 

 Makes 8 to 12

Pasta Frolla for the Shells (for both types)

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon 
    (4 cups sifted)
  • ½ lb. granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • ½ lb. sweet butter at room temperature 
    (1 cup or 2 sticks)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 5 medium egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • grated rinds from 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 drops of vanilla extract
  • ¼ of a cup all purpose flour extra
  • diced citron
  • chopped almonds or pistachio

 

PREPARATION 

Mound flour on a flat surface and form a well or place into a bowl. Add the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, honey and zest of a half of the lemon.  
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; if dough is sticky, add some more flour, if it is too dry add a few tablespoons of water, to moisten it.
Do not over mix. Do not handle dough more than necessary.
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 Cassatelle
Divide dough in 2 pieces and knead each piece briefly to compact; on a floured working surface, roll out one piece to 3/8 of an inch thick. Using a round cutter (or the rim of a glass) 3 inches across, cut 10 to 12 circles and set on a floured pan.
Knead the other piece of dough with any scrapes, compact it and roll it out 3/8 of an inch thick. Using a round cutter (or the rim of a glass) 3 inches across cut 10 to 12 circles and set on a floured pan.


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 in the center of each the stuffing. Cover each with another disk and press all around to seal.

 

 

The Cassatelle of Saint Agatha with Custard Cream


 

 

Prepare 1 lb. of pumpkin preserve (click here to go to recipe).
Make half of the recipe of
custard cream (click here to go to recipe).
Place in the center of each disk a tablespoon of custard cream and a full teaspoon of pumpkin preserve; sprinkle a few pieces of diced candied citron and some roasted chopped almonds or pistachio nuts.

Place each pastry onto a greased baking pan, 2 inches apart and as you transfer them, with your cupped hands, try to shape into a semi sphere, to resemble the breast of a woman.
Wash the pastries with egg white.
Bake the pastries for 15 to 20 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). Add some pink food coloring.
Use the glaze when it is warm.
Pour over each pastry to coat and allow excess to drip on pan.
If glazing is too thin collect the dripping with a spatula, add more confectionary sugar, reheat and when warm repeat the operation.
Garnish each pasty with a half of a candied cherry and place on a small paper doily or a small serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

 

 

The Cassatelle of Saint Agatha with Ricotta Cream

 

 

Make half of the recipe of Ricotta Cream (click here to go to recipe).
Before using it stir with a wooden spoon and add a pinch of ginger.
Place in the center of each disk a tablespoon of ricotta cream and a few pieces of diced candied citron.
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, to resemble the breast of a woman
Wash the pastries with egg white.
Bake the pastries at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 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).
Use the glaze when it is warm.
Pour over each pastry to coat and allow excess to drip on pan.
If glazing is too thin collect the dripping with a spatula, reheat and when warm repeat the operation.
Garnish each pastry with a half of a candied cherry or a chocolate chip and place on a small paper doily or a small serving dish. Serve at room temperature.