Bomboloni, the fried Italian style donuts found throughout Italy but especially popular in Tuscany, are certain to bring a smile to just about anyone. These ethereal lemon infused bites, a specialty of the seaside town of Livorno, were introduced to me by my teacher and friend Giuliano Bugialli so many years ago. A special treat enjoyed by the Italian Jewish community for the coming holiday of Hanukkah when fried food commemorates the story of the oil in the temple.
All yeasted dough that ends up in the fryer is not created equal. This particular recipe differs from most others in that the addition of a cooked and riced potato creates a softer texture, resulting in moister Bomboloni. To be completely honest the steps for this preparation are more numerous than many others you might find, but nothing especially difficulty is involved – un po ‘di pazienza (a bit of patience) is all you need.
Giuliano, like many artisans bakers begins his yeast dough with the traditional starter, which is nothing more that activating the yeast on a small scale to start the process. In the meantime, the potato is cooked and riced to a fluffy texture to be added to the dough along with a bit of softened butter and the grated peel of two large lemons.
The dough is puffy and delicate even prior to the first rise, but once it has doubled it has the look of a golden feather pillow.
Add enough flour to the work surface when gently rolling out the dough, but take care not to incorporate too much flour as keeping these little clouds as delicate as possible is the key.
A second rise and let the fun begin – time to deep fry! No one enjoys frying let’s be honest but with a few simple steps you can reduce your anticipatory stress level substantially. Prepare your stove top by completely covering the surrounding area with as much aluminum foil as possible – think school science project. Next, have everything you will need at hand before you begin to heat up the oil. The oil must be at the correct temperature so that the Bomboloni quickly browns without absorbing too much of it. A gentle tumble of the hot Bomboloni in granulated sugar and they are ready. The only problem now is making sure that you don’t overdo it with sampling and have a few left for your guests.
Serve warm or at room temperature the same day that the Bomboloni are prepared. Hanukkah, Christmas or just about any occasion are ideal for serving Bomboloni.
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- 1 Russet pototo, 8 ounces or more
- Kosher salt
- ¾ cup of unbleached all purpose flour
- 4½ teaspoons of dry yeast
- ½ cup of lukewarm whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
- Grated peel of 2 large, fragrant lemons
- 3 large organic eggs
- 5 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 2¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- ½ cup lukewarm whole milk
- Additional 1 cup of flour to roll out the Bombolini
- 1 quart of sunflower oil
- 2 cups of granulated sugar to roll the fried Bombolini in
- Wash the potato well to remove any traces of soil, place it in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a handful of kosher salt; boil with the skin on until quite soft. Remove to cool until it is easy enough to handle.
- While the potato is cooking, prepare the sponge by placing the ¾ cup of flour & pinch of salt into a small bowl; make a well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in the first ½ cup of lukewarm milk and put the mixture into the well. Make a dough by incorporating flour from the sides of the bowl into the milk until all of the flour has been incorporated; I use my fingers at the end of this process to form a more uniform dough. You will have a small, soft ball of dough which should be covered with a clean cotton towel and allowed to rest and rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Gently melt the butter in either the microwave or over the stove - let it rest so as it is not hot.
- Once the potato is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and pass it through the holes of a food mill or potato ricer. Measure out 8 ounces or close to that amount to be used in the dough, discard the rest.
- Place the melted butter and grated lemon peel in the work bowl of a standing mixer. Add the eggs one at a time on low speed, follow with the 5 tablespoons of sugar. Pull the sponge into several smaller pieces, add this to the work bowl and mix on medium speed until it has been uniformly incorporated; follow with the riced potato and mix until a thick but somewhat smooth batter has been formed.
- Start adding the flour ¼ cup at a time waiting until it has been incorporated before adding more. Continue until only ½ cup of flour remains. Add the second ½ cup of lukewarm milk followed by the rest of the flour. The dough should become uniform, soft and golden. Cover the work bowl with a clean cotton towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled - about 1 hour or more.
- Have two sheet pans lined with clean cotton towels, flour the towels. Lightly flour a work surface with about half of the 1 cup of flour. Punch down the risen dough, bring it together and lay it on the floured work surface. Lightly flour the top and rollout to about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Cut into discs using a sharp edged 2 inch cutter, laying the cut discs on the well flowered cotton cloth, gently cover with another cotton dish towel. Gather all leftover dough into a ball and again rollout as before, cutting and placing the Bombolini discs on the floured towel. Allow the Bombolini to rest until doubled in size, again about one hour.
- Prepare and have in place a paper towel lined tray to absorb the oil from the fried Bomboloni, a second tray with the granulated sugar, and a platter for the finished Bomboloni. Cover the area around the stove and wall with aluminum foil. Have the fully risen Bomboloni alongside the stove. Heat the oil in a deep pot or deep-fat fryer until the temperature reaches 375º. Carefully transfer some of the Bomboloni into the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry for 15 seconds on one side and tip to the other side using a long fork for another 15 seconds. The Bomboloni should be puffy and quite golden. Remove to the paper towel lined tray to absorb any residual cooking oil. While still quite warm roll in the granulated sugar and place on the platter.
- Bomboloni can be eaten immediately or later in the day, they are at their best the day in which they are prepared.
You’re killing me with your photos-my mouth is watering!
You are so sweet – these are absolutely to die for, I know you would love them – just keep the aluminum foil on hand!
Ciao Chow Linda says
My how these bring back memories of Italy. My daughter-in-law, who is Jewish, is crazy for bomboloni, and suggested we make these for the holidays. I think it’s a great idea to combine the Italian and Jewish traditions.
I remember you writing about your daughter-in-law and the lovely cookie trays you prepared for the wedding. Italy has a small, yet strong Jewish community with deep traditions – many rooted in food. This is the perfect opportunity to bring the traditions together. Happy Holidays Linda….
After having read your wonderful post, I thought of generations of women that spent days baking and cooking together, preparing for important holidays for their families. This is the perfect recipe to demonstrate this “collectiveness”. As you say, no one really enjoys frying, but when the task is shared, and a good time is had, the rewards are two-fold. Love that you have included mashed potatoes. Definitely on my to-do list for the holidays. Thanks for sharing Paula ♥
Your comment is so on target and in today’s world we often overlook the women who really have held the family together; this was hard work in years past and continues to be today. Through the table we bring everyone together in happy and sad moments. Delighted that you enjoyed the post and the recipe – I promise your family will be delighted. Happy Holidays Maria!
These Bomboloni sound truly addictive! I know for sure not many would be left over for guests after making these! I love your idea of covering the surrounding stove top when frying these delectable morsels, that is something I never quite thought of doing and yet brilliant! Another delicious recipe to try and must say my list is now “happily” quite long……enjoy your baking
I am the aluminum foil, open door, fan full on queen when frying Marisa. Yes, it is difficult to resist these when preparing for a party, so tempting. Honestly it’s best not to try one at all and keep frying and rolling in sugar. Thank you for commenting.
These look delicious! Can you tell me what type of yeast you mean when you say “dry yeast”? Is it the active dry stuff?
I only ask because I normally bake with fresh bakers yeast, so was trying to figure out conversions. Thank you!!!
I promise you Rachael, they are delicious. With respect to the yeast, yes the active dry stuff is what you should use, not the quick acting yeast however. Of course fresh bakers yeast is superior but I did not use it because many readers are not familiar with the product. The addition of the potato actually enhances the fluffy nature and flavor of the bomboloni, in a way mimicking the use of fresh yeast. Please let me know how the turn out.