Bonèt? What’s that, some kind of hat? Actually, it’s a pudding from Piemonte. One that has a long, rich tradition – not only in reference to its taste.
Rich indeed: local nobility loved it. It graced the tables of their lavish banquets beginning in the 13th century. Not so often made at home these days, nowadays you are more likely to find it on the dessert menu of trattorie and restaurants all over Piemonte.
But don’t you think it’s always more fun to try your hand at making your own? The bonèt makes a good dinner party dessert, it’s fairly easy to make, and you’ll really impress your family and friends!
Bonèt is made with a winning combination of crushed amaretti biscuits, whole eggs, sugar, milk and sometimes a healthy splash of rum. It’s cooked inside a pudding mould, cut into slices, served with a dusting of cocoa powder, and…voilà!
Did you know?
Speaking about the bonèt pudding mould, it wasn’t so far off the mark to query if it was a hat:
• The pudding was traditionally prepared in a round copper mould. This gave the dessert its name, as the mould was similar to the shape of a traditional Piemontese hat or bonnet.
• Did you know that the consistency of bonèt is very much like crème caramel? In fact, it is prepared in the same way. During the cooking process, the sugar caramelizes and creates the firm outer ‘shell’ that holds the pudding together.
Bonèt like grandma made it
Pack your bonèt with a punch and go really traditional – if you dare.
• Fernet, packed with 27 herbs, is a bitter, aromatic digestive liqueur that nonnas all over Piemonte once laced the bonèt mixture with – to aid digestion of course…Mamma mia – now that’s what I call a bonèt!
• Fernet is as powerful, pungent and controversial as digestives come. Modern variations of bonèt are toned down with rum. The recipe that I’ve chosen suggests rum (you can also abstain if you wish) but if you think your taste buds can take it, you could try it with Fernet.
The ‘wow’ factor
However you choose to eat your bonèt, you have to admit that the finished dessert does have that ‘wow’ factor. I’ve often exclaimed it myself when tucking in to a slice of bonèt. The taste is just divine with its combination of sweet almond, caramel sugar, and bitter, deep chocolate infused with sweet, sugary rum overtones. Wow!
No worries if you’re on a diet. In Piemonte’s restaurants, it’s popular to share. Ask for one slice of dessert with two spoons. Though, you might wish you hadn’t agreed to share once you dig in.
Without further ado, here’s a recipe by Armando Gambera (local Piemontese culinary expert and contributor to Slow Food guides). I like this one because it’s simple and easy to follow. Plus, it doesn’t use too many eggs. Some recipes for bonèt use up to 10 eggs (yikes!).
Ingredients400ml of milk
8 spoons of caster sugar
2 spoons of bitter cocoa powder
50g of crushed amaretti cookies
A glass of rum
Preparing the Bonèt mixture
In a shallow dish, beat the eggs and add the milk.
Add just 4 spoons of sugar and the cocoa powder, rum, and crushed amaretti cookies. Mix everything together well.
Preparing the pudding mould
In a saucepan, add the other 4 spoonfuls of sugar.
Heat the sugar until it caramelizes and turns a soft, brown hazelnut colour.
Spray a little water over it and stir the caramel until it takes on a glassy consistency.
Spread the mixture onto the base and sides of a pre-heated pudding mould.
When the caramel has hardened, pour in the bonèt mixture.
Bake in the oven inside a water bath at 180 degrees.
After half an hour, check how it is doing. Test if it is cooked by sliding the blade of a knife into the mixture. When the blade is pulled out and remains dry, that means the bonèt is cooked. If it still has some mixture on it, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
Preparing the water bath
For the water bath, fill a container with water and put the mould inside. The water should come up to about 2 inches from the rim of the mould.
When the Bonèt is cooked, take it out of the bath and let it cool. Serve sliced and decorated with a dusting of cocoa powder.
No dish in Italy is complete without a wine pairing. So, to do bonèt justice, you can't go wrong with a glass of fruity Brachetto d’Acqui.
Brachetto d’Acqui origins
A lightly frothy, sweet, red dessert wine classified as DOCG, the Brachetto grapes are grown in the Monferrato area near Acqui Terme in the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. Its aromatic bouquet has delightfully fruity and floral notes.
The Brachetto grape is said to be native to the region of Piemonte, though there is a rumour that it may actually have its origins in France.
Brachetto d’Acqui ignites passion
Famous consumers include Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony, and Cleopatra who were all partial to a glass. Cleopatra claimed it had aphrodisiac qualities, igniting passions in her lovers. Brachetto was also Gianduja’s favourite flirty tipple (the Italian Commedia dell’Arte theatre character and symbol of Turin and Piemonte).
Read more about Brachetto d'Acqui → The Valentine Date: A Story of Two Wines
Lara Statham was born in the UK. She has lived in Greece, Hungary, Jordan and Egypt but has called Turin, Piedmont home for the past 17 years. A fan of Piedmontese cuisine and wines, with a penchant for Langhe’s reds, she writes for www.turinitalyguide.com an online travel guide and lifestyle blog about Turin and Piedmont.