Sporcamuss

Frankdessert, Puglia26 Comments

Sporcamuss

I had the delightful confection called sporcamuss in Bari during our trip last April to Puglia. Even though I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, it was love at first bite. Perhaps because it leaned into the rich and creamy with only a passing nod to the sweet? Whatever the reason, I knew I had to recreate it back home and share it with our readers. It look quite a while, but better late than never…

Sporcamuss is a sort of finger sandwich: squares of puff pastry split in half and filled with crema diplomatica, literally “diplomatic cream”—extra thick pastry cream (crema pasticciera) enriched with whipped cream. The sandwich is dusted with powdered sugar and served. Utterly simple but delicious!

If you use store-bought puff pastry—and unless you’re a master baker, there’s no real reason you shouldn’t—the recipe should take you less than an hour to pull off. The only slightly tricky bit is making the pastry cream, and even that isn’t all that hard, if you bear in mind a few tips I’ll summarize in the Notes below.

The name sporcamuss means “dirty the mouth”, a joking reference to the way the filling tends to oozes out when you bite into a sporcamuss, creating a delicious mess around your lips. I find that goes for your fingers, too. But this is one mess I’m happy to live with.

Ingredients

Makes about 9 sporcamuss

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water

For the crema pasticciera:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 75g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 20g (2 Tbs) flour or corn starch
  • 250 ml (2 cup) milk (or equal parts milk and cream)
  • 1 tps vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean, split open)
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon

For the crema diplomatica:

  • 250ml (1 cup) whipping cream
  • 2 heaping Tbs powdered sugar

To finish the dish:

  • Powdered (aka confectioners) sugar

Directions

Bake the puff pastry

Defrost the puff pastry following the directions on the package. Make sure it’s still cold.

Lay the defrosted pastry sheet on a board and cut it into squares about 6cm by 6cm (roughly 2-1/3″x2-1/3″). Place the squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them well. Brush with the egg wash.

Bake in a hot (200C/400F) oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let the pastry squares cool on a baking rack.

Make the filling:

In a standing mixer bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth and the mixture forms ‘ribbons’ as the whisk rotates. Then add the flour or cornstarch slowly, bit by bit, into the mixture until fully incorporated. The mixture should be a pale yellow and quite fluffy.

Meanwhile, heat the milk (or milk and cream) over moderate heat until hot but not boiling. You will see little bubbles just beginning to form around the edge of the pot. (If you are using a vanilla bean, add it to the milk and let it steep for a few minutes, then remove it.) Take the milk off the heat and drizzle it, little by little, into the mixer bowl.

Now pour the whole thing from the bowl into the pot (along with the vanilla extract if using) and put it over very gentle heat, whisking continuously and vigorously. After a while, it should begin to thicken. Keep stirring until you have a thick custard.

Remove from the heat, stir in the grated lemon zest if using, and let the mixture cool. It will thicken further as it cools.

When the custard has cooled completely, whip the cream with the powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold it into the custard until you have a uniformly fluffy consistency.

Filling the puff pastry sandwiches

Take each puff pastry square and, with the aid of a paring knife, very gingerly split their tops from the bottoms and pry them open.

Using pastry bag (or just a plastic bag clipped on its corner) cover the bottom of the puff pastry square with a thick piping of the pastry cream. Then replace the top pressing it down gently so it adheres to the filling to form a little sandwich.

Repeat until you have used up all the puff pastry squares.

Serving

Dust your sporcamuss with confectioners sugar and serve.

Notes

As mentioned at the top, if you’re using store bought puff pastry the only slightly tricky part of making sporcamuss is the crema pasticciera. Like any egg custard, the key is heating the egg enough that it thickens the milk and cream into a rich paste, but not so much that the egg scrambles. The good news is that the flour or cornstarch helps to keep this from happening. Just keep the mixture under an actual boil and you should be fine.

The other less serious but more common pitfall are lumps. To avoid them, you need to maintain a gentle flame and make sure to keep whisking as directed in the recipe—continuously and vigorously—as the custard thickens. If it seems to be thickening too fast for you to keep up, add a drizzle of milk or cream to cool things down.

NB: You make sporcamuss with a thicker crema pasticciera than the one used for making zuppa inglese, with more egg yolk and slightly more starch as well. You need it really thick so the sandwich stays together, especially when the whipped cream is added to the mix. At least until you bite into it, that is.

If you don’t have a pastry bag, then you can use a plastic storage bag with one corner clipped off. Or even just use a spoon.

Working with the puff pastry

As mentioned, the main point to bear in mind when working with store bought puff pastry is, while it should be defrosted so you can unroll and cut it up, it should still be cold. If not, its high fat content means it will become greasy and difficult to handle. (And worse still, it may lose its puff.) If need be, put the pastry into the fridge for a few minutes until it’s cold again.

You’ll find many Italian recipes for sporcamuss calling for baking the puff pastry in a moderate (180C/350F) oven but in my recipe testing I found I got far better results in a hot oven. The pastry had more ‘puff’ and took on a more golden hue. But your mileage may vary, of course. It’s best to just check the instructions on the package.

You can also coat the puff pastry with a dusting of sugar rather than the egg wash. I prefer the egg as it gives the pastry an attractive sheen. The sugar, of course, sweeten the pastry but I find the sporcamuss quite sweet enough without it.

Don’t sweat the precise size of the pastry squares too much. For those using the Imperial system, you may find that your puff pastry sheet doesn’t quite divide into equal 2-1/3 inch squares. That’s fine, anything in the ball park that allows you to handle the little sandwich with one hand will do fine. You may still wind up with odds and ends. And if your hand is unsteady, feel free to use a ruler or other straight edge to guide you when you’re cutting the puff pastry into squares.

Finally, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, rather than splitting each baked puff pastry square and filling the middle, you can simply place filling on one square and top it with another. That said, I prefer to make the extra effort to split the puff pastry. You get a better balance between filling and pastry. And opening the puff pastry also means that the filling will, ever so slightly, penetrate the pastry, softening and flavoring it. And of course, using two squares rather than one, you’ll wind up with only half the number of sporcamuss… !

Variations

Sporcamuss is sometimes made with crema pasticciera only, which provides a richer if less fluffy filling. If you want to go this route, then double the measurements for the crema pasticciera and, of course, omit the whipped cream.

In some recipes, you warm the already filled sporcamuss very gently (90C) for just five minutes just before dusting it with powdered sugar and serving.

Sporcamuss also comes in different flavors. Probably the easiest to make at home is sporcamuss al cioccolato which you get just by melting some dark chocolate (say 25g/1 oz) into the milk before adding it to the egg and sugar. Nutella is another option.

And if you want to get extra fancy, you can also top your sporcamuss with a drizzle of melted chocolate or Nutella, either instead of or in addition to the powdered sugar.

Making ahead

You can make both the puff pastry and the filling ahead. If you want to make the crema diplomatica ahead, then cover it with plastic film and place the fridge.

Like cannoli, you should ideally serve your sporcamuss as soon as possible after assembling them. That said, in a pinch they can sit for a while (I’d say no more than an hour or two, or it will begin to get soggy) and dusted right before serving.

Sporcamuss

A sweet sandwich of puff pastry filled with pastry cream enriched with whipped cream
Total Time1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Puglia
Keyword: baked

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water

For the cream pasticciera

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 75g 1/3 cup sugar
  • 20g 2 Tbs flour or corn starch
  • 250ml 1 cup milk (or equal parts milk and cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or a vanilla bean, split open
  • 1/2 lemon, grated zest of optional

For the crema diplomatica

  • 250ml 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbs powdered sugar

Instructions

Bake the puff pastry

  • Defrost the puff pastry following the directions on the package. Make sure it's still cold.
  • Lay the defrosted pastry sheet on a board and cut it into squares about 6cm by 6cm (roughly 2-1/3"x2-1/3"). Place the squares on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them well. Brush with the egg wash.
  • Bake in a hot (200C/400F) oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown.
  • Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let the pastry squares cool on a baking rack.

Make the filling

  • In a standing mixer bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth and the mixture forms ‘ribbons’ as the whisk rotates. Then add the flour or cornstarch slowly, bit by bit, into the mixture until fully incorporated. The mixture should be a pale yellow and quite fluffy.
  • Meanwhile, heat the milk (or milk and cream) over moderate heat until hot but not boiling. You will see little bubbles just beginning to form around the edge of the pot. (If you are using a vanilla bean, add it to the milk and let it steep for a few minutes, then remove it.)
    Take the milk off the heat and drizzle it, little by little, into the mixer bowl.
  • Now pour the whole thing from the bowl into the pot (along with the vanilla extract if using) and put it over very gentle heat, whisking continuously and vigorously. After a while, it should begin to thicken. Keep stirring until you have a thick custard.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the grated lemon zest if using, and let the mixture cool. It will thicken further as it cools.
  • When the custard has cooled completely, whip the cream with the powdered sugar until it forms stiff peaks. Fold it into the custard until you have a uniformly fluffy consistency.

Filling the puff pastry

  • Take each puff pastry square and, with the aid of a paring knife, very gingerly split their tops from the bottoms and pry them open.
  • Using pastry bag (or just a plastic bag clipped on its corner) cover the bottom of the puff pastry square with a thick piping of the pastry cream. Then replace the top pressing it down gently so it adheres to the filling to form a little sandwich.

Serving

  • Dust your sporcamuss with confectioners sugar and serve.

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26 Comments on “Sporcamuss”

  1. I’m better at making dinner than dessert but I thought I would try this. I made it for our Sunday family breakfast. I prepped everything the night before and assembled it in the morning. It was very easy to make. The presentation was gorgeous and it tasted divine. My kids loved it. Thank you for this great recipe.

  2. Too funny! I never heard of this before, but “muss” is how we say mouth in our dialect, so I knew exactly what it meant. And now I have a tip for you: next time you make crema diplomatica, add a splash of Grand Marnier just for fun! Of course it won’t be the proper recipe anymore, but OMG, soooo good!

  3. Thank you for sharing this delightful recipe, the combination of flaky puff pastry, velvety crema diplomatica, and a dusting of powdered sugar creates a heavenly treat, YUM!

  4. I’ve never heard of sporcamuss, but I love this kind of pastry. Flaky buttery pastry filled with lots of rich but light cream – who can resist this combination? So elegant and delicious!

  5. Hungarians have something similar called a custard slice, the custard not being as rich as the pastry cream. Our custard slice is delicious so I’m guessing your version is delicious too.

  6. How delicious! I don’t have much of a sweet tooth either, but love egg custard and crème brûlée. I was offered a pastel de nata earlier in the week and couldn’t say no!

    1. Thanks, George! I’ll shoot you a few suggestions by email when I get a chance. I can say we ate very well down there.

  7. Sporcamuss?!! It sounds like a name of a dinosaur! Hysterical. Sorry. The pastry looks really lovely. I don’t love sweets either but I do love creams/crèmes. You did a great job. I have a seafood salad from Bari that I’ll be making when the weather warms.

  8. I’m about to open a frozen-and-thawed package of all-butter puff pastry with two sheets, and I only need one. So this recipe comes at a perfect time. I will need to have friends over for sporcamouss and mint tea. While you had this in Bari, both the name and ingredients sound so northern Italian. I can’t wait to try it.

    1. Excellent timing, then! And yes, sporcamuss is surprisingly delicate and elegant, not at all in line with the “rustic” image one has of southern Italian cuisine. And there’s another popular treat—a savory one—made with puff pastry from Lecce. I plan to blog on that soon as well. Anyway, hope you like it!

We'd love to hear your questions and thoughts! And if you tried the recipe, we'd love to hear how it went!

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