St. Agatha was a third century martyr
who died in 252 at age 15.
According to a sixth century
document, a local magistrate named Quinctianus tried to blackmail her into
sex in exchange for not charging her with being a Christian. When Agatha refused, she was imprisoned in a brothel but refused to cooperate. Then she
was beaten, her breasts were cut off, and she
was then rolled over live coals.
commemorate Agatha's unshakable religious convictions that gave her the
strength to suffer these tortures, the Sicilians had St. Agatha named as the
patron saint of bellfounders because of the Sicilian perceived
resemblance between the shape of bells and the shape of breasts.
celebrate St. Agatha's feastday with a
cream-filled pastry called Ie Minni di Sant'Agata (St Agatha's
Breasts) or Ie Minni di Virgini (Breasts of the
Virgin) which were first made in Palermo's Monastero delia Virgini.
St. Agatha is the patron saint of Catania,
the capital of the Sicilian province of the same name, situated on the eastern side of Mount Etna where she is also invoked
for protection against eruptions of the volcano. There is an annual St.
Agatha festival in Catania from February 3
Following a Mass at dawn, the statue of St. Agatha that houses her
relics is placed on a fercolo, a 40,000 pound silver carriage, that
passes through the eight neighborhoods as thousands of the
city's residents turn out to see the spectacle and participate in the
festival activities. The streets are crowded with stalls and booths where
all sorts of pastries are sold, and mobile grids where horse meat is
roasted. (No roast horse recipes are featured here). Agatha is also
venerated as the patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to
have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
- Place the milk and half of the sugar
in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Combine the egg yolks and almond
flavoring in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add in the flour
and the salt, mix to combine.
- When the milk just begins to boil,
remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Very slowly dribble the hot
milk into the yolk mixture, stirring all the time. When about half of
the milk has been added. place all of the yolk mixture into the
saucepan over medium heat. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry
cream as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan
when you stir. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for about 1
minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.
- Remove from heat and add the butter.
Place into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to stop a skin
from forming on the cream. Chill and use within a few days.
- Put cherries aside for assembly.