Bombolone—still hot from the fryer, snowy with powdered sugar, and plump with vanilla cream—is joy itself.
It was a hot night in Rome the first time I had a bombolone. I was in my early twenties and had been out late with friends, and one of them “in the know” wanted to let me in on a late-night secret. He led me down a dark alley. I hardly knew what to expect—an ambush? But the only activity we found was an entrepreneurial baker selling midnight bomboloni out the back door of a bakery. The bomboloni were hot out of the fryer, and the cream inside was cool and freshly made. As we stood in the quiet alley eating these warm, sweet handfuls, I was giddy with delight.
Now, as then, I think that a freshly made bombolone—still hot from the fryer, snowy with powdered sugar, and plump with vanilla cream—is joy itself.
Italian Doughnuts (Bomboloni)
FOR THE BOMBOLINI
- 1 recipe No-Knead, Naturally Leavened Brioche dough (recipe below)
- Unbleached all-purpose flour for the work surface and pan
- 3 cups vanilla pastry cream or jelly
- 2 quarts Canola oil for frying
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
FOR THE BRIOCHE
- 1/3 cup water
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Very finely chopped or grated zest of ½ lemon
- 125 grams of sourdough starter
- 1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Olive oil for the bowl
- The dough and the pastry cream can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
- Equipment: A thermometer or deep fryer, a pastry bag or parchment cone, and a spider or skimmer
Make the Brioche
- Gently heat the water, butter, sugar, and honey to a pleasantly warm temperature, about 100°F, in a small saucepan over low heat. Allow to cool a bit. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sugar dissolves. Add the eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the starter and mix at medium speed until mostly dissolved. Stop the mixer, add the flour and salt, and mix on low until just combined. Mix on high for 1 to 15 minutes, or until the dough ribbons, webs, and pulls off the side of the bowl.
- Scrape off the paddle, cover loosely with a damp tea towel, and allow to barely double in size, 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. If you are going to need to free up the mixer, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel.
- Heavily flour a work surface. Line an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan with parchment paper, with 2 inches of paper hanging over each end. Lightly flour your hands and the edges of the dough. Use a dough scraper to gently pry the dough loose from the bowl, taking are not to tear it. Turn the dough out onto the floured work surface and pat it down firmly to flatten it. Pick up the left side of the dough and fold it in two-thirds of the way down the right side. Then pick up the right side and fold it two-thirds of the way toward the left side. Gently pat down the dough again and turn the top of the dough (the point farthest from you) into a “bike seat”: fold the corners down to make a very small triangle. Pat down the tip of the triangle very firmly and ten roll it toward you. Continue rolling the dough toward you until you have a neat cylinder. Put the dough seam side down in the paper-lined loaf pan and cover with a damp tea towel to keep it moist to a skin does not form on the surface of the loaf. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it reaches the top of the pan – 2 to 4 hours in the summer and as many as 8-10 hours in the winter.
Make the Bombolini
- When the brioche dough has risen, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface and divide the dough with a dough scraper or knife into 18 equal parts weighing about 40 grams each. Shape the 18 pieces into balls by tugging the sides down, under, and into themselves to create a round shape with good surface tension (take care not to tear the dough, though). Let the balls rest 4 inches apart on a lightly floured sheet pan. Cover with a damp tea towel until they double in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Fill a 3-quart saucepan two-thirds full with frying oil. Heat the oil to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with paper towels, place a wire rack on top, and put it near the frying area. The fry line: The finished color of a well-cooked bombolone should be a light shade of hazelnut. When bomboloni are perfectly leavened, they will be light and fluffy and full of air, and bounce to the surface of the hot oil, leaving a pale “fry line,” or ring, around their middle.
- Gently lower the bomboloni into the hot oil using a slotted spoon, spider, or fry basket. As you lower them in, hold them suspended half out of the oil, for about 10 seconds, so that they puff up a bit. When you release them, they should bob and float to the surface. Flip them after 1 minute (I like to use a chopstick), and fry for 1½ minutes. Transfer to the wire rack to cool.
- The doughnuts will continue to cook as they cool, so allow at least 10 minutes before filling or eating. Puncture the tops or sides with an implement the width of a chopstick or pencil. To fill the doughnuts, use a pastry bag or rolled-up parchment cone filled with the pastry cream or your favorite jelly (I like raspberry). Give each bombolone about 1½ tablespoons of filling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.