When I first arrived in Sardinia I couldn’t believe the strange but wonderful phenomenon of bomboloni for breakfast. Luca – who’d been deprived of them in London for 4 years, used to have two of these crema-filled doughnuts for breakfast every day to compensate.
I only have breakfast al bar once a week or so, and so when I do, I have a bomba washed down with a large, creamy cappuccino: the full whammy. It takes me the rest of the morning to digest it, but I derive perverse enjoyment from the extended rumblings in my stomach.
A bombolone, or a bomba as it is sometimes known, is what we would call a doughnut – a fried sweet round of dough dusted with sugar and usually filled to bursting with thick, yellow Italian pastry cream. Deriving their name from their grenade-like shape, the way they burst as you bite into them also provides a suitably explosive echo. Habitually eaten at breakfast with a coffee or occasionally as a merenda, they are so popular they are also made in mini format and placed in dainty paper cases, and included when you buy a selection-tray of dolci to take as a gift.
A sugar-crusted, cream-filled doughnut is about the most indulgent way to begin the day, and if you ate one of these every day for the rest of your life you may well suffer some sort of health problem. Enjoyed, however, once or twice a week, they make the day that much more magical (and indigestible).
250g 0 flour
Zest of 1 lemon
5g/1 tsp of salt
7g fresh yeast
50g butter, soft
1 litre of flavourless oil, for deep frying
Sugar, for dusting
1 batch of crèma (see below)
Warm the milk to a scald and then add the water to bring it back to blood temperature. Once tepid add the sugar and yeast and whisk to dissolve.
Add all of the remaining ingredients and the yeast liquid into a bowl and mix well to form a dough. This dough is quite sticky, so it is easiest to make in a machine. If doing by hand, don’t add flour, just mix well and allow your hands to get sticky as you knead it for a few minutes.
Once you have a smooth dough (it will be quite wet – but you want it stretchy and uniform), lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with clingfilm or an oiled plastic bag and leave in warm place to rise for 60-90 minutes (or overnight in the fridge), until doubled in size.
Lightly oil your digital scale and work surface. Scrape out the dough from the bowl onto the oiled surface.
Using a dough scraper cut small sections from the dough to create 6 x 80g pieces. Shape them into balls in your hands, circling the palm of your hand around them and then using the scraper to turn them until you create smooth balls (there are also some good Youtube videos demonstrating this).
Place the balls on a floured tray a few inches apart. Cover the tray with oiled clingfilm or a tea towel and allow to prove for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.
Heat a large deep pan of frying oil to 180 (if you don’t have a thermometer – test the temperature of the oil with a small piece of bread. If it’s brown after 30 seconds the oil is ready. If it browns any quicker the oil is too hot and will need to cool a little before frying the doughnuts).
Plop the doughnuts in and fry two at a time until ginger biscuit brown all over, turning to cook evenly (cut one open to check they are cooked through). Drain on absorbent paper and then dust in sugar.
Once they have cooled pierce a hole in the side of each. Using a piping bag pipe in the custard/crema until full to bursting.
Serve, with delight.
Makes ½ a litre (enough for a fruit tart or 10-12 doughnuts)
480ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split
4 egg yolks
Place the milk and vanilla pod in a pan over a gentle heat and bring just to a scald.
Whisk the yolks with the sugar in a bowl until pale and mousse-like (you can do this by hand – no need to use a mixer, just a good whisking). Whisk in the cornflour and set aside.
Once the milk is just beginning to simmer (little bubbles should appear around the edge) pour it gently in a steady stream over the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
Return the mix to the pan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until you have a thick custard that coats the back of the wooden spoon. You’re aiming for the same consistency as thick mayonnaise when it is ready, and it will firm up further once chilled.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard quickly into a container to cool. Remove the vanilla pod with tongs (or fingers – but don’t burn them). Cover it with clingfilm (the clingfilm should touch the surface of the custard) to prevent it getting a crust and leave it to cool completely. (The vanilla pod can be gently rinsed and patted dry and used to flavour sugar, or added to alcohol to make your own vanilla essence).