I dedicate this recipe to my good friends German and Leak Casati. German grew up in Florence and met his American wife, Leah, when she was studying there during college. Needless to say, they learned a thing or two about bomboloni, the yeast doughnuts found in many a Florentine café and pastry shop. When I featured these on the menu at Babbo, German and Leah pronounced them the best bomboloni they had ever had, which considering their vast experience with these little nuggets of love, I’d say is a compliment.–Gina DePalma
Bombolini | Florentine Doughnuts
1 H, 25 M
3 H, 35 M
Makes 20 to 25 bomboloni
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Pour the milk and cream into a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, then scrape the seeds with the blunt side of a small knife and add them to the pan along with the bean and vanilla extract. Add a 1/2 cup of the sugar and place the pan over medium heat.
Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon sugar, followed by the salt and cornstarch. When the milk mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Slowly pour some of the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Add the rest of the hot liquid to the eggs, whisking constantly, then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and place it over low heat. Keep whisking it to prevent the custard from scorching or overcooking.
When the custard has thickened somewhat, remove it from the heat and strain it through a chinois or fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water to chill it, whisking occasionally as the custard cools. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the custard in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of the granulated sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Set the bowl aside and allow the yeast to proof until foamy, about 4 minutes.
Place the milk in a small saucepan or a microwaveable container and heat until warm to the touch.
Place the all-purpose flour, cake flour, remaining 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, the salt, and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the paddle attachment to combine them thoroughly. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the yeast mixture, warm milk, and eggs. Beat on medium until a smooth dough forms. Beat in the butter, then remove the paddle and replace with the dough hook, and beat in enough additional flour on low speed to make a smooth, soft, somewhat elastic dough. Switch to medium speed and mix for 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free spot and allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Gently deflate the dough by pulling it from the sides of the bowl and turn it onto a floured surface. Pat or roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Using a fluted or plain-edged round cutter 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cut the doughnuts. Place them on a baking sheet dusted with flour and cover them with plastic wrap. Allow them to proof while you heat the oil.
Heat 6 inches (4 to 6 cups) olive oil to 360°F (182°C) in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Fry the doughnuts in batches, 4 or 5 at a time, in the hot oil, gently turning them until they are golden brown on both sides and cooked in the center.
Drain the doughnuts on paper towels. While they are still warm, sprinkle them generously with confectioners’ sugar on both sides. The bomboloni are best served warm, with Vanilla Custard alongside for dipping.
Bombolini | Florentine Doughnuts Recipe © 2007 Gina DePalma. Photo © 2007 Gentl & Hyers. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.