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Bomboloni For Carnevale

Calling all fry-babies. It’s only a couple of days until Ash Wednesday, signaling the end of Carnevale and beginning of Lent. During Carnevale, Italians typically feast on rich, (and often) fried foods, like the addictive fried cookies called chiacchiere, or the doughnut-hole-like specialty called castagnole, both of which you can read about and find a recipe for by clicking on those names.

Another treat that’s eaten in Italy all year long, but especially at Carnevale, are these fluffy filled doughnuts, called bomboloni. In the Trentino Alto-Adige region and other Northern parts of Italy, they’re often called Krapfen, a nod to their Austrian name. They’re also called fasnacht in Germany, where they’re served on Fasnacht Day, the day before Ash Wednesday. Call it Fat Tuesday in the U.S., or martedi grassa in Italy, but either way, it’s meant to be the last hurrah of merriment and gluttonous eating before the solemn 40 days of Lent.

I had been wanting to make bomboloni for a long time, and got a push to make them after learning that my daughter-in-law had a weakness for them. Last summer when we were in Tuscany together, she went out early while we were all still asleep to hunt for bomboloni for our breakfast. Once she gave birth to my granddaughter last fall, I felt I had to indulge her with home made bomboloni.

They’re not at all hard to make, but they do require some advance preparation because of the yeast dough, which needs to rise twice until tripled in size. This is what the dough looks like before rising. Sorry I don’t have a photo of the risen dough, but it completely filled the bowl that contained it.

Once it’s risen enough, it’s a very easy dough to work with and roll out into a rectangle.

Use a biscuit cutter, or if you don’t have one, the rim of a glass to cut out circles.

Place the rounds on a baking sheet and allow them to rise until tripled in size again, another one and a half hours or so.

Then carefully fry in hot oil until they’re browned. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil, which should be about 170-180 degrees. If it’s too hot, the bomboloni will brown on the outside and might still be raw inside. If it’s not hot enough, you’ll have greasy bomboloni.

You might want to make a test one before frying all of them, and cut into it to see if it’s fully cooked. Have a large plate of sugar handy. Drain the bomboloni on paper towels, and roll them immediately in the granulated sugar. You could use powdered sugar as an alternative.

You can certainly eat them as is, but they’re even better if you fill them. Use a pastry bag with a plain tip that has a large opening. Cut a slit in the side, insert the tip and squeeze in some of the filling. It’s a little easier if you have someone helping you. I use an easy pastry cream recipe that’s made with whipped cream and instant vanilla pudding.

You can also use Nutella, or even a good jam as your filling.

Either way, they’re best eaten the same day they’re made, which was certainly not a problem here.

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Bomboloni
 
Adapted from Valentina, The Baking Fairy
Author:
Serves: 18-20
Ingredients
  • FOR THE BOMBOLONI DOUGH:
  • 250g (2 cups) bread flour
  • 250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 75g (heaping ⅓ cup) granulated white sugar
  • 100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 20g fresh cake yeast or 1 package (7g) dry instant yeast
  • 7g (1½ tsp) salt
  • 150g (3) whole large eggs
  • 40g (2) egg yolks
  • 110g (1/2 cup) lukewarm water
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • granulated sugar, for coating
  • pastry cream, Nutella, or jam, for filling
  • FOR THE VANILLA PASTRY CREAM FILLING:
  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding
  • ½ cup whipping cream
Instructions
  1. First, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water, and allow it to sit until it blooms.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all ingredients except for one of the whole eggs, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, then high speed for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add in the remaining egg, and beat on medium speed until a smooth and elastic dough forms {you may have to add a little more flour if it seems too sticky}.
  4. Knead by hand for a couple of minutes, then place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours until tripled in size.
  5. After the first rise, lightly knead the dough, roll it out to 1.5 cm/0.5 inch thickness, and cut out rounds. I found a regular water glass to be the perfect size!
  6. Transfer all your rounds to baking sheets lined with wax paper, spray lightly with water, and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow the bomboloni to rise another hour and a half until they triple in size once more.
  7. When ready to fry, heat vegetable oil in a large, deep pan to a temperature between 170-180C {a frying thermometer comes in handy}.
  8. Fry the bomboloni a few at a time, making sure to not crowd the pan. Fry them for about 3 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown, then drain off the excess oil, and set them on a wire rack to cool.
  9. While they are still warm, pour some granulated sugar in a small bowl, and roll the bomboloni around until completely coated in the sugar.
  10. FOR THE VANILLA PASTRY CREAM FILLING:
  11. Make the vanilla pudding according to instructions on box.
  12. Whip the cream with 2 Tablespoons confectioner's sugar until it reaches soft peaks.
  13. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding.
  14. Fill a pastry bag that has a long metal tip, with the filling.
  15. Insert a knife into the side of a bombolone and squeeze in some of the filling.
 

Doughnuts!

Doughnuts!

Doughnuts, doughnuts and more doughnuts. More doughnuts that we could possibly eat in one sitting, but with my decision to abstain from eating desserts for 40 days starting Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), I figured it’s time to indulge these last few days. 

The period before Lent that is called Carnevale in Italy is called Fasnacht in Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France, when doughnuts and other fried foods are traditionally consumed. Many descendants of Germans who live in Pennsylvania, (called the Pennsylvania Dutch – although they probably misappropriated the word Dutch from the word Deutsch, meaning German) also celebrate the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as Fasnacht Day, and eat doughnuts, which they refer to as fasnachts.
The doughnuts my daughter-in-law and I made weren’t fried, but baked, and hopefully contain fewer calories. But no promises here.
 If you want calorie-free doughnuts, take a look at these — they’re painted by Wayne Thiebaud, an American artist known for his colorful paintings of pastries, cakes and other foods.
Fellow blogger Stacey Snacks gave me the idea to make baked doughnuts after she showed the pan she used when she made them. I quickly ordered one online:
But Thiebaud’s art was the inspiration for glazing my doughnuts in a medley of colors and flavors – from cinnamon sugar coated, to chocolate glazed, to powdered sugar coated, to lemon glazed, blueberry glazed and blood orange glazed.
My daughter-in-law Beth piped the doughnut batter into the greased doughnut pan using a pastry bag. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a plastic baggie, cutting off a tip at one corner.
They take only 10 minutes to bake and you might be tempted to leave them in longer since they’ll be quite pale on top. Don’t. The bottoms are much browner and if you leave them in longer, they’ll be overcooked and dry.
You also don’t want to fill them too high, otherwise you risk losing the “hole” of your doughnut.
Flip them over to cool a bit, and then go to town with the frostings and toppings. I can just imagine sprinkling some chocolate “jimmies” or chopped nuts on top of this doughnut, couldn’t you? Why didn’t I think of it when I was frosting them?
 Or maybe some coconut on top of this doughnut glazed with confectioner’s sugar and the juice of a blood orange.
Invite a crowd over when you make these (or give some to the neighbors as I did), because this recipe gave me about two dozen doughnuts, even though it said it yields 12.
But who’s counting? You’ve still got a couple of days left before Lent. Make merry and indulge.
And for those of you who don’t observe Lent – you have no restrictions. What are you waiting for?

 

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Baked Doughnuts
King Arthur’s website says this recipe makes 12 doughnuts, but I got 24! My pan was obviously smaller than what the flour company uses.
1/4 cup butter (4 T.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 2/3 cup King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth.
  2. Add the eggs, beating to combine.
  3. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.
  4. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased doughnut pans, filling the wells to about 1/4″ shy of the rim.
  6. Bake the doughnuts for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 to 7 minutes before turning them out of the pans onto a rack.
  7. For cinnamon doughnuts, shake warm doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar. For sugar-coated doughnuts, shake doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/2 cup non-melting topping sugar (for best results), or confectioners’ sugar.
  8. For the chocolate frosted doughnuts, place 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 2 T. butter, 1 T. plus 1 t. light corn syrup and 1/4 t. vanilla extract into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is blended. Microwave for a few seconds longer, if necessary. Add extra corn syrup if needed to make a smooth, shiny glaze. Yield: about 1/2 cup glaze.
  9. Linda’s note:
  10. For the paler pink glazed doughnuts, I mixed confectioner’s sugar with the juice of 1/2 blood orange, adding enough liquid until it reached proper consistency. For the more vibrant pink color, I mixed confectioner’s sugar with some blueberry syrup I made by cooking blueberries, water and a little sugar with a little cornstarch and a squirt of lemon.
  11. For the white glazed doughnuts, mix some confectioner’s sugar with lemon juice until proper consistency. For the white powdered sugar doughnuts, put some powdered sugar into a small brown paper bag, add the doughnuts and shake.
Castagnole

Castagnole

 Hello castagnole …or bignole or frittelle or whatever you call them where you live. They’re like fried doughnut holes but better. I made the pale ones using ricotta in the recipe, and the dark ones with cocoa powder. Both are delicious as is, but wickedly good when you fill them with Nutella. Just take a look.
See what I mean? Who the heck can resist one of these stuffed babies? Personally, my favorite are the pale ricotta castagnole.  For the chocolate ones, I originally used a recipe I found in a February 2009 issue of Cucina Italiana magazine, but the batter was extremely thin and didn’t work at all. I had to add a lot more flour than the recipe called for just to keep them together in the oil. The next day, I checked the magazine’s website and found the recipe was corrected to triple the amount of flour that was in the magazine copy.  Even so, making the chocolate ones is more difficult because it’s hard to tell from the color alone when they’re actually cooked through.

 

Carnevale is celebrated in many Catholic countries including Italy. Children dress up in costumes, flinging tiny scraps of colored paper called coriandoli (we call it confetti) along the streets. In Venice the celebration is particularly festive, with people in elaborate costumes and masquerades arriving from all over the world eager to strut their finery and vie for prizes. I’ve had the good fortune to be in Venice a few times during Carnevale. Here is just one of the many people in costume you see strolling the narrow streets and posing for photographers.

 

Fried food, including castagnole and chiacchiere (featured on this blog here) are a staple of the festivities, especially in the final week and days leading to Ash Wednesday and the solemn 40 day Lenten period. It’s a time to throw caution to the wind – party all night, eat all those decadent desserts and rich, cholesterol-laden meats. Hence the name fat Tuesday, as it’s known in the U.S. or Mardi gras, the French equivalent. The word carnevale derives from the Latin carn, meaning flesh, and levare, to put away.  This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 22, so you’ve still got time to indulge in these delightful little treats.
And if you’ve decided to give up something else for Lent, like peas or okra, well then, you can continue eating these castagnole guilt-free all through the 40-day period.
Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to:
 

 

 
Ricotta Castagnole
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 t. baking powder
oil for frying (safflower, canola or similar oil)
powdered sugar
Nutella for stuffing
Heat oil in a pan (I use a cast iron skillet) to a depth of about three inches on a medium-high heat.
Beat eggs with a whisk in a large bowl. Add sugar, ricotta, salt, vanilla, flour and baking powder. Beat with a wooden spoon until mixed well. Batter should be thicker than pancake batter but not as thick as bread dough.
Drop a tablespoon full into a pan of hot oil. Fry the batter until they balls of dough are golden brown. They almost turn themselves over, but if they don’t make sure you flip them to fry all sides. Check the interior after you fry a few to make sure they’re cooked through. Adjust the temperature if necessary.
Drain on paper towels. Use a pastry bag and pipe with Nutella. Alternately, cut a hole with a knife and insert a small bit of Nutella. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Chocolate Bignole
From lacucinaitalianamagazine.com

Ingredients

Pastry Cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1¼ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
Puffs
  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Instructions

For Pastry Cream: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat; remove from heat.

In a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly, add about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk to the egg mixture; then, whisking, add remaining milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, return to medium heat, and, whisking constantly and vigorously, bring to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly and into the edges of pot, until mixture is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter pieces, one at a time, until pastry cream is smooth and silky. Transfer cream to a clean bowl, immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until cold, about 1 hour (pastry cream can be made up to 1 day ahead).

For puffs: In a bowl, whisk together flour, ⅔ cup cocoa powder, granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolk, milk, butter, baking powder, vanilla and salt until smooth.

Heat about 3 inches oil to 375° in a 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into oil and fry, about 10 at a time, until puffed and dark golden, 1 to 1½ minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer puffs to paper towels to drain.

Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip. Insert the pastry tip into the center of one puff; pipe in about 1 teaspoon pastry cream (do not overfill). Transfer filled puff to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining puffs.

In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar; dust puffs with cocoa mixture. Serve at room temperature.

Carnevale And Chiacchiere

Carnevale and Chiacchiere

These fried treats – also called frappe, cenci, crostoli, galani or other names depending on the region – are typically made at Carnevale time in Italy.
Carnevale is celebrated all over Italy, with parties and costume parades leading up to the solemn 40-day lenten period that starts on Ash Wednesday. While the word Carnevale means a farewell to meat, similarly “Mardi Gras” which is celebrated most famously in New Orleans, translates to “Fat Tuesday.” It’s a time when anything goes, including decadent desserts and bawdy behavior. It’s amazing how raucous some people behave when they don a mask!

Chiacchiere or other fried sweets such as castagnole, are available in bakery shops all over Italy during the Carnevale period. This recipe comes to you via my friend Titty, who made them recently for a meeting of my Italian chit-chat group called “Le Matte” (the crazy ladies). Since the word chiacchiere literally means “chit-chat,” it was most apropos.

Chiacchiere

1 cup flour, or more if needed
1 T. softened butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 shotglass of either grappa or dry white wine
pinch of salt
powdered sugar or honey

Put the flour on a board and make a well – or put the flour in a bowl. Add the eggs, butter, grappa or wine, and salt and start mixing with a fork or by hand. Knead until you get a soft and smooth dough. Let it rest for at least 1/2 hour and stretch out with a rolling pin to the thickness of a coin. Cut into strips or desired shape and deep fry in vegetable oil. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle when cool with powdered sugar or honey.

Scroll down the photos below to get a glimpse of Carnevale in Venice, where I shot these pictures two years ago. They’ll give you some idea of why it’s the most well-known Carnevale in Europe.

Poster Announcing “Carnevale IS Venice”

 

Amazing Peacock Lady

Even the Little Ones Join in the Merriment


A Poignant Couple in Piazza San Marco

A Jester and Tetrarchs near the Doge’s Palace

Visions in Purple and Red

A Tranquil Tableau

Peachy 17th C. couple

Golden Duo

Klimt wannabe

Ciaochowlinda and husband (l’ingeniere) and friends Ellen and Albert in Venice

(I’m laughing to myself just thinking of the fun time we had together that year with our crazy husbands and their fifty-cent makeshift masks)