What's the Deal with... Bomboloni

You know that thing? That thing you're hearing about everywhere, but you don’t quite know what it is? And it sounds like something you should already know about, so you don’t really want to ask? Well, we know about it, and we’ll give you the intel. Welcome to What’s the Deal with.

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Photo credit: Bomboloni Cafe

Does a doughnut by any other name taste as sweet? Fans of the airy bomboloni will tell you, yes. Also, yum. 

Where It Comes From: Originating in Italy, the doughnut-like pastry can be found in cafés around Florence, according to the cooking website Leite’s Culinara. More recently, the Italian-style pastry, often filled with vanilla custard and dusted with sugar, has started popping up in bakeries across the U.S.

The Euro version is the size of a puffy ping pong ball, while the American take tends to be bigger—the ones at Heartbaker Café in San Francisco are about two inches across. What can we say? We do love to super-size.

Defining Characteristic: American cake doughnuts, denser and sweeter than the bomboloni, are made without yeast. The bomboloni’s yeast  dough must be made a day in advance and left overnight to rise in the fridge, Sybil Johnson, co-owner and baker at San Francisco’s Heartbaker told us. Then the next day, “You can roll it out, cut it, fry it, and fill it.”

Cream-filled bomboloni (because sometimes you should gild a lily) are piped from the top, rather than the side, like American jelly doughnuts. Vanilla custard, Nutella, and fruit preserve fillings wink like a crown.

Why It’s Catching On: It’s the classic, irresistible marriage of sweet, deep-fried dough, given the artisanal treatment. At Bomboloni Café on New York’s Upper West Side, the selection of fillings include tiramisu, blood orange, toasted marshmallow, peanut butter, and passion fruit. 

Sarah R., a fan on Yelp who called the Italian-style doughnuts, “Little puffs of heaven.”

Over in Brooklyn, pastry chef and Du Jour Bakery co-owner Vera Obias, has given her offering a brilliant twist.

“We decided to use a brioche dough, which fries up so nice and fluffy, it kind of melts in your mouth,” the baker told us. She described the sugar-coated treat stuffed with pastry cream as “kind of like pudding in a doughnut.” (See: Why It’s Catching On.)

How to Make It: If you decide to try to make the fried food at home, be sure to have a heavy-duty stand mixer. “For our dough, it takes about 15 -20 minutes to make the dough elastic—you need a hefty motor,” said Obias.

And a lack of shame when it comes to the eating. This creamy dessert can get messy, leading some to resort to dainty knife and fork in public. “In secret, I would probably be shoving it in my mouth,” said Obias. We consider a dirty face the ultimate seal of approval.