Orange Pinwheel Pastries (Arancini di Carnevale)

January 26, 2015
0 Ratings
  • Makes about 24
Author Notes

When most people hear the word arancini, they think of Sicily's famous rice balls stuffed with meat ragu, crumbed, and deep fried. Less known are these special pastries from central Italy's Le Marche region. Both specialties get their name from arancia, Italian for orange; the former because of their round shape and golden color, the latter because of the intensely perfumed orange sugar that's rolled inside the sweet dough of these pastries.

The region of Le Marche is known for these Arancini di Carnevale, a rich egg and milk-filled dough rolled up with orange zest and sugar (there is also a lemon version known as limoncini) and, traditionally, deep fried. More and more, you'll find this treat baked instead of fried (even Italians are health conscious). When baked, the pastries hold their shape better and you get a lovely, caramelized bottom from the melted sugar. Frying is a good option, too, though: The pastries will be fluffier and crispier all at the same time.

Eat them as they are or coat them with a dusting of confectioners' sugar or a dose of warm, runny honey. If you are after something a little sweeter, you could also add some orange marmalade to the orange-sugar filling, or, for a slightly more substantial frangipane-like filling, almond meal.

The recipe below was greatly inspired by one posted in Italian here: —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) instant dry yeast (many packages of dry yeast are already in this measurement but check as brands can differ)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) warm milk
  • 4 3/4 cups (600 grams) flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
  • 3-4 large oranges, finely zested
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and set aside.
  2. In a wide bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 cup (50 grams) of the sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yeast mixture, the melted butter, the eggs, and the vanilla. Mix until well combined and the dough comes together. Knead a few minutes longer, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the ball of dough back in the bowl and let rise, covered with a tea towel or plastic wrap, until risen and doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the freshly grated orange zest with the remaining 1 cup of sugar, and rub the mixture between your fingers until well combined and perfumed.
  4. Roll out the dough on a large, lightly floured surface in a rectangle, no more than 1/4 inch or 5mm thick (you may wish to divide the dough in 2 portions and roll 2 of these separately if you are short on space).
  5. Scatter the orange-sugar over the dough in a thin layer to cover the surface, leaving an inch border. Brush a bit of water around the entire edge of the dough to help it close properly and, from the long side, roll tightly into a log. With a sharp, heavy knife, cut the log into 1/3-inch-thick slices, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  6. Allow the pastries to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 20 minutes, until the pastries are golden. You can flip them over halfway through if you want a sticky, caramelized type of pastry. Alternatively (and traditionally), you can deep fry these in plenty of vegetable oil (so that they float) until golden brown -- they will have a slightly different appearance but they come out fluffier and softer in the middle.
  7. You can serve them as they are (they are best the day they are made), or cover them in a dusting of confectioners' sugar or warmed honey.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • krikri
  • Emiko
  • Martin Belderson
    Martin Belderson

3 Reviews

krikri February 28, 2017
These were delicious! I don't usually have such success (or confidence) but I read the comments below (thank you) and this article I didn't over-knead (by hand), and I ground granulated sugar to a more-or-less caster sugar texture.

I rolled my amorphous blob into a semi-rectangle and got upwards of 60 pinwheels! Some of these I flipped over halfway to aim for the sticky version, and they were indeed more like palmiers.

Thank you for our Carnival brunch!
Martin B. March 8, 2015
I am writing this as I eat some of my first batch. They're good but not great. I was expecting a more brioche-like softness, so if you're mixing on a machine like a Kitchenaid be very careful. I kneaded on mine for 8 minutes and that was probably too long. I suspect the gluten over-developed. Because the butter is melted before addition you don't need to work it as hard as a brioche dough. Big mistake.
If you have the option, it's worth using fine caster sugar, not granulated. You'll get a much better orange caramel.
I could have used a little more detail about the dimensions of the rectangle to be rolled out. I could not match mine with the 5mm thickness, slice thickness, and number of turns in the photographed arancini. I'm a bit puzzled.
However, they taste delicious and I will keep trying this recipe until I get it right. Thanks for posting it.
Emiko March 15, 2015
Good point! I hand mixed/kneaded this rather than using a machine. Also if you deep fry them, they are softer than when baked! I think it sounds like you had a very tight/elastic dough so that may be why it was difficult to roll out to 5mm thickness (the size of the dough is not as important as the thickness but mine was about 60 x 45 cm when rolled out). Hope that helps!