A hat-tip to the Bonet!

A hat-tip to the Bonet!

If coffee, chocolate and sugar don’t lift your boat, then a hint of Amaretto liqueur and crunchy hazelnut biscuits sprinkled on this ultimate dessert will definitely take you to foodie heaven, promises Sajith Vengateri

Imagine the love child from a Ménage à Trois of the perfect caramel custard, coffee and dark chocolate. That beautiful, silky smooth creature is Bonet, pronounced ‘bu-neh’. From Langhe region of Piedmont in northern Italy, it’s the ultimate dinner party spoon dessert and if coffee, chocolate and sugar don’t lift your boat, then a hint of Amaretto liqueur and crunchy hazelnut biscuits sprinkled on it will definitely take you to foodie heaven.

Piedmont is located at the foot of the Italian Alps and shares its borders with France and Switzerland. Some of the best-known beef, cheese and rice produced in Italy comes from Piedmont. The rolling hills of Piedmont are home to Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the great red wines of Italy. Alba in Piedmont is known for its luxurious white truffles, priced in gourmet kitchens all over the world. Turin is the capital city of Piedmont where the modern espresso coffee was born, it then spread to the rest of the world. Hazelnuts grown in Langhe are known for their sweetness and used in Gianduja, mixed with chocolate, a better-known version of this heavenly combination is your favourite breakfast spread, Nutella, created by Pietro Ferrero, a confectioner from Piedmont as a solution to counter the short supply of chocolate after World War II. Ferrero used local hazelnuts, sugar and a small amount of cocoa to make this amazing spread that has conquered the world. The origins of Bonet can be traced back to the 13th century, and many versions with subtle variations are served in the region’s top restaurants. This recipe uses a hint of cinnamon which is a perfect foil for this luxurious silky concoction. The best quality Amaretto liqueur comes from Sarrono, a small city of Lombardy in northern Italy. Rum would be a good substitute or you can decide to go non-alcoholic too. Find the best quality full cream, milk, organic eggs, coffee, Amaretto liqueur  (substitute rum with a few drops of almond essence) and dark chocolate for this beauty. The classic version calls for almond or hazelnut biscuits. You should be able to pick this up from a good bakery. 

Bonet 

Ingredients

300 ml milk

300 ml full cream

15 gm cocoa powder

60 gm chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

30 gm ground coffee beans or instant coffee powder

2 cinnamon sticks

5 egg yolks (reserve the whites for biscuits)

1 whole egg

30ml Ameretto Disarrono (or substitute with 30 ml rum + 2 ml of almond extract)

30 gm sugar

2 gm salt

Caramel

150 gm sugar

50 ml water

100 gm hazelnut or amaretti biscuits

Preheat oven to 150 c (no fan )

Method 

Boil milk, cream, cocoa powder, ground coffee beans or instant coffee and pour over chopped chocolate. Mix thoroughly till it looks like the smoothest hot chocolate drink you have ever seen. Strain through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let the mixture cool down slightly to approximately 80 c. Mix egg yolks, sugar, salt, Amaretto liqueur in a bowl. 

Pour the warm coffee and cocoa infused milk mixture into the bowl and whisk together quickly till combined. Strain the mixture again and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature and remove any froth from the top of the mixture. Cook sugar and water together in a heavy bottom pan to make a light caramel. Pour the caramel into a baking dish.

A rectangular glass dish will work just fine or you could use stainless steel moulds to make smaller individual portions. Gently pour the Bonet mixture into the caramel lined dish. Cook at 150c oven for 50 minutes to an hour in a water bath. The best way to do this is to find a roasting pan that’s big enough to place the Bonet dish into. Line the roasting pan with a tea towel and use hot water to fill to the same level of custard mixture in the baking dish. The Bonet is cooked when the top feels set when you touch with your finger and the centre has a slight wobble when you gently shake it. The final cooking time depends on the size of the dish that is being used. Cool down for at least 3 hours in a refrigerator, sprinkle crushed biscuits on top, place the serving plate on top and gently invert the Bonet. You might need to carefully loosen the sides with your fingers, or run a hot knife along the edges to make it easy to unmould. Serve with some lightly whipped cream and more crushed hazelnut or Amaretti biscuits. Best enjoyed on a cold winter night with a glass of wine and good friends. Find below a simple recipe to make these lovely biscuits if anyone wants to go the extra mile and make it at home.

Hazelnut /almond biscuits

Ingredients

400 gm hazelnut meal or almond meal

400 gm sugar

4 egg whites

1 gm salt

5 ml lemon juice

5 ml almond extract (optional)

50 gm icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170 c

Method

Add lemon juice and salt to egg whites. Whip with an electric beater or hand whisk till soft peaks. Mix sugar, hazelnut or almond meal and almond extract (optional). Blend in the whipped egg whites and stir till it forms a wet sticky dough. Spoon small dollops of dough onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper, one inch apart. Use icing sugar to coat to avoid sticking to your fingers and spoon. Dust with more icing sugar and let it reset for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool it down on a wire rack.

(The author is a chef based in Brisbane, Australia. An exponent of regional Italian cuisine, he’s from the class of ‘94 IHM Kovalam and loves playing with fire. He’s an avid permaculture gardener and Border Collie whisperer.)

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