Bisceglie Sospiro - their delicate soft sweetness

Born with a legend that binds them closely to Lucrezia Borgia, they are one of the symbols of traditional Southern Italian pastries; with origins in Cremona, whose inhabitants are called Sospiresi.  It is a sweet made only of eggs, sugar and flour, of impalpable softness.

A few kilometers from Bari, facing out over the Adriatic, the town of Bisceglie has a rich history. It is not rare to find dolmens in the surrounding countryside, a sign that the area has been inhabited since ancient times. Agriculture is the main activity, but in recent years tourism has also become important. The town has a long-standing pastry tradition, which revolves around a symbolic sweet: the Bisceglie sospiro. According to local legend, when Lucrezia Borgia, the countess of Bisceglie, wed Alfonso of Aragon, the nuns of the San Luigi convent prepared these little cakes for the wedding celebrations. Other stories say that the sospiro was invented by a romantic confectioner who was inspired by the shape of his lover’s breasts.

The sweets do in fact have a breast-like shape, and are made from a light sponge cake prepared with free-range eggs and Puglian flour flavoured with rind from local lemons. The inside is filled with a vanilla-infused cream, and the exterior covered with a thin sugar glaze.


Sugar 30 g; 00 flour 60 g; Medium eggs, cold from the fridge 3

For the Custard Cream:

Whole milk 200 g;  Yolks 2; Corn starch (cornstarch) 20 g; Sugar 30 g; Half lemon zest;

For the Icing:

Icing sugar 450 g; Egg whites 90 g; Lemon juice 3 drops

To prepare this pastry, first preheat the oven to 160 °; separate the 3 eggs you need for the dough by dividing the yolks (you will have to get 60 g) from the egg whites (you will have to get 100 g); eggs must be cold from the refrigerator. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of the mixer equipped with whisk and start working them at medium-low speed. When the egg whites begin to turn white, add the sugar 2-3 times and continue to whisk until you get a firm snow. Now pour the egg yolks into a separate bowl and beat them with the electric whisk until they are light and fluffy. At this point add the egg yolks to the whipped egg whites and mix gently from the bottom upwards with a spatula, being careful not to disassemble them. When the egg mixture is well blended, add the flour 2-3 times by sifting it directly into the bowl with the help of a sieve and mix gently from the bottom up with the spatula to avoid disassembling the dough. When the ingredients are well blended, transfer the mixture obtained into a sac-a-poche with a smooth spout with a diameter of 18 mm. Line a dripping pan with parchment paper and squeeze some tufts of dough with the sac-a-poche distancing them from each other, which must have a base of about 6 cm in diameter and end with a tip at the top. With these doses you will get 9 individual pastries. Bake them in the oven preheated to 160 °  for about 25-30 minutes.

While they are baking, move on to the preparation of the custard: pour the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand whisk until they are frothy, then add the sifted corn starch and mix again with the whisk to make the mixture very homogeneous. At this point the milk will almost come to a boil, then pour it into the bowl with the egg yolks through a colander, to remove the lemon zest  and mix again . Finally, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring for 4-5 minutes over low heat. Once the cream has thickened, transfer it to a glass pan and cover it with cling film; let it cool to room temperature, then store it in the refrigerator.  After the baking time for the pastries (they must be golden on the outside but not dark), transfer them to a wire rack and let them cool completely. In the meantime, move on to preparing the icing: pour the 90 g of egg whites into a bowl and add a few drops of lemon , then start whipping with electric whisk adding a spoonful of icing sugar at a time. Continue whipping with whisk until the icing sugar has completely blended and the icing will be homogeneous and without lumps, then cover it with the film in contact. Now you can assemble the sweet pastries: remove the cream from the refrigerator and transfer it to a pastry bag with a smooth spout with a diameter of 15 mm; take the now cooled cakes and make a cut parallel to the base, taking care to leave it attached on one side so as not to remove it completely . Fill the inside of the cakes with cream, close them carefully and place them again on the wire rack; proceed in the same way with all of them. When all them are filled, cover them entirely with the icing by pouring it over the top with a spoon and letting it slide along the sides. Let the sighs dry on the wire rack for 3-4 hours at room temperature (not in the refrigerator), taking care to place a tray underneath to collect the excess ice . Once they are dry, they are ready to be eaten!

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