serves: 30 pizzelle
You must be familiar with timballo from the film "Big Night"-maccheroni dressed with a wonderful sweet tomato sauce set in a big round form of pate brise to bake. A sweet crust with savory pasta might seem an unlikely combination perhaps, but the timballo is delicious and represents much of what is left of the Neapolitan kitchen from its aristocratic days under French/Spanish rule.
These delightful pizzelle, small half moon turnovers of raised sweet dough, stuffed with braised escarole, garlic and sausage, are a wonderful and much simpler rendition of the timballo. The bitterness of the escarole and savory flavor of the meat, enveloped in the sweet crust, reach a perfect balance.
These pizzelle make a great hors d'oeuvre, passed around still warm from the oven. They will win you much praise and you do not need to labor over them at the last minute. You can make the dough and filling a day before. Moreover the assembled pizzelle can be frozen and then baked when needed.
For the Pizzelle Dough
1 packet dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
¾ cup lukewarm milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
10 tablespoons butter, softened, in pieces, plus more for the bowl
For the Filling
1½ pounds escarole
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 sweet Italian sausages, casing removed and meat crumbled
½ teaspoon peperoncino, or to taste
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 egg, for brushing the pizzelle
Make a sponge, or starter dough: Mix 1/4 cup warm water with 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the yeast dissolve and start to bubble, then stir in 1 cup of the flour and the warm milk. Cover the bowl and set in a warm place to rise until light and bubbly, an hour or so.
To mix the flour in a food processor, scrape all of the sponge into the work bowl. Drop in the remaining 2 cups of flour, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, and butter pieces. Pulse several times to mix, then process continuously for about 30 seconds. You should have soft and somewhat sticky dough that has come away from the sides of the bowl. If the sides are not clear, incorporate more flour, a tablespoon at a time, to stiffen the dough. (You can also use a heavy duty electric mixer to form the dough or do it by hand.)
Scrape all the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand briefly to form a smooth, soft ball. Work in more flour if necessary but it is okay if the dough is still a bit sticky. Butter the insides of a bowl lightly, drop in the dough, and seal the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about an hour.
Meanwhile, make the pizzelle filling. Trim off the tough bottom of the escarole head, separate and rinse the leaves, then chop them crosswise into 2-inch wide strips. Pour the olive oil into the skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Scatter the sliced garlic in the pan and cook for a minute or two until sizzling. Add the sausage, breaking up the meat and spreading it in the pan. Push aside the sausage and sprinkle the peperoncino in a cleared hot spot to toast it, then sprinkle the salt over. Stir together with the sausage and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until all the meat is browned.
With the heat on high, pile all the chopped escarole in the pan and toss the strips over and over, to heat and start cooking (tongs are useful for this). Pour a cup or so of water into the skillet and continue turning the escarole, as it steams and wilts, until all the water has evaporated. Lower the heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the escarole is very soft and almost dry, about 10 minutes in all. Adjust the seasoning and let the filling cool a bit. Turn it onto a board and chop it up with a chef's knife, so the escarole and sausage are in small bits and mixed together.
When you are ready to form the pizzelle, deflate the risen dough, remove it from the bowl and gently knead it into a smooth round. If you will be baking some or all of the pizzelle right away, heat the oven to 375° and arrange racks for one or more baking sheets.
Cut the dough in thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece into an oblong approximately 20-inches by 12-inches. With a ring-shaped cutter or the rim of a can or plastic container, cut circles in the sheet of dough, 4-inches in diameter (or larger or smaller if you prefer).
Gather the dough scraps from between the cut rounds and mound a tablespoon of filling on each. Moisten the outside edge of each circle with water (use your finger or a small brush) then fold the dough over the filling. Line up the edges and pinch them together, forming a neat half-moon shaped turnover. Press the tines of a fork around the edge to seal the dough. Roll out the remaining dough pieces (incorporating any scraps) and form all the pizzelle this way.
Arrange the pizzelle on the parchment-lined (or buttered) sheet at least 1-inch apart. Beat the egg well with a little water and brush the tops of the pizzelle with the wash. Set the sheet (or sheets, if you fill several) in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the pizzelle are crusty and golden, shifting the position of the sheets as needed for even baking.
Serve them warm, lightly buttered.