Named 'Turk's head,' this dessert beautifully narrates the tale of Sicily."

A Sicilian gastronomic expert, Barbara Conti shares the background of a very delicious dessert that can be tasted in every pastry shop of the beautiful city of Scicli - the Turk's Head or Testa di Turco.  Scicli is a shining example of Sicilian Baroque, with its complex of churches and buildings of historical importance, to the point that its historic center has become an Intangible Heritage of Humanity for UNESCO since 2002. The heritage of Italian recipes is also apparent in Scicli , in the province of Ragusa.

Barbara Conti, a journalist and food blogger originally from this portion of Sicily, has dedicated time and studies to the history of the Turk's head, but also to its recipe. “You have to be careful not to call it cream puffs” she mentions, “a word that many people use. Because it is much bigger, three times as much." According to Conti, the dessert is currently experiencing a new revival, also thanks to the festival, which has been repeated for about a decade and takes place on the feast of the Madonna delle Milizie, co-patron saint of the city, on the last Saturday of May. “In reality it is a Carnival dessert which however is now made all year round by almost all the pastry shops in Scicli. It's difficult to make it at home because it's not such a simple dessert."

Turkish heads are large cream puffs filled with ricotta cream or custard, unique to the town of Scicli in Ragusa. Their distinctive shape resembles the turbans worn by the Saracens, whom the people of Scicli liberated themselves from in 1091 after a fierce battle. This event is commemorated annually during a poignant festival held on the last Saturday of May. The festival honors Madonna delle Milizie, who, as legend has it, appeared on a white horse wielding a sword when the Normans were struggling in battle. With her divine intervention, victory was swiftly achieved. The numerous fallen Turks, whose heads were bandaged, inspired these large desserts. Today, to cater to the growing number of tourists, Scicli's pastry shops offer them year-round, including in smaller sizes.


Pastry: 300 ml of water; +300 g of 00 flour; +300 g of lard; +9 eggs; +A pinch of salt

Cream Filling: 400 g of cow's milk ricotta; +200 g of sugar; +100 g of chocolate chips; +1/2 sachet of vanillin


For the ricotta cream: Place the sheep's ricotta to drain in a sieve and place it in the refrigerator until it has lost the whey, then sift it, mix it well in a bowl together with the sugar and vanilla and add the chocolate chips.

For the custard: In a pan, beat the egg yolks and sugar. Sift the starch into a bowl and dissolve it in the milk. Then add the mixture to the egg yolks beaten in the pan and cook over a moderate heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. When the cream has thickened sufficiently (10-20 minutes), add the grated lemon zest, mix for another couple of minutes and remove it from the heat.

For the cream puffs: Melt the lard and salt in a pan with the water and bring to the boil. Then add the sifted flour little at a time, stirring continuously for the necessary time (5-10 minutes) so that the mixture takes on the color of wax and comes away from the sides of the pan. Pour the mixture into a bowl, let it cool and begin incorporating one whole egg at a time until you obtain a smooth mixture with a soft consistency. Place the Turk's head mixture in a piping bag and begin creating cream puffs with a diameter of 8-10 cm, well spaced from each other, on a greased baking tray.

Place everything in a preheated oven at 300°C until the cream puffs are golden brown, taking care never to open the oven door to prevent them from sagging.

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