Italy has 20 regions and what is surprising is that each region, as well as each town, has its own typical dishes and specialties made with local ingredients. Today’s cooking feature comes from northern Italy, and more precisely from Piedmont, in north-west Italy. Being very famous for its amaretti cookies, we will dive into the past by finding out the history and recipe of a much appreciated spoon dessert made with amaretti. Its name is Bonet.
In the past, Piedmont was ruled by French people, and the word Bonet comes from the French “bonnet”, meaning hat. There are two explanations to this name. The first and more accredited is the one that claims that this dessert was named after the copper mould where it was cooked, whose shape was that of a chef’s hat. But nowadays, if you ask Piedmontese people why it is so called, they will state that as hat is the last thing to be worn to go back home (most probably after a Sunday rich meal), this dessert is the last thing to be eaten at the end of a meal.
The Bonet In The Beginning
The Bonet recipe followed the classical principles of a crème caramel dessert, where there was no trace of chocolate in it. This was called “bonet alla monferrina” only made with eggs, milk, sugar and amaretti cookies. Nowadays, the modern version of it has chocolate and rum. This became famous and spread later, only when cocoa and rum, two typical tropical products, were discovered in America and brought to Europe.
Make caramel by heating granulated sugar and about 8 tablespoons water in a saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved. Now turn up the heat and cook until the sugar turns toffee-coloured and caramelises. You will know when it is ready from the colour and smell; be careful not to burn the sugar.
As soon as it reaches this point, quickly pour half the caramel into the base of a 1-litre loaf tin and the other half on to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Tilt the tin so that all of the base and some of the sides are covered.
Leave this to set. Leave the caramel on the sheet to set too, then crush it to make shards (you'll use this for decoration later).
Put the milk and cream in a sauce pan and bring up to a simmer. Add the coffee powder, cocoa and chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted, then immediately remove from the heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and golden caster sugar together until fluffy.
Slowly add the warm milk and cream mixture, pouring from a height to cool it as it pours, then add the rum and crushed amaretti and mix well.
Pour this into the loaf tin and stand it in a roasting tin containing enough just-boiled water to come a third to halfway up the sides of the loaf tin.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour. The top should feel set when you touch the centre with your index finger; but it will still tremble slightly.
Remove from the water bath and leave to cool. Cover the top with cling film, put in the fridge and leave for 6 hours to set completely.
Remove the cling film. Run a knife all round the edges, between the bonet and the sides of the tin, and carefully turn out on to a plate.
Decorate with caramel shards.