This is a recipe I got to bake few days ago, but I did not have the time to post it till today 🙂 My life has been hectic lately (well, hectic is not the right word maybe…let’s say I had a lot in my mind to wonder about. This 2013 is going to end in an unexpected way, much better than what I thought it was possibile…so I guess that I have to celebrate this with one of my favourite Italian treats: bignè (pronounced Bee/nyeh – nothing to do with Beignets, which come from France and are deep fried). Those little round puffs filled with pastry or chantilly cream are a masterpiece in every pasticceria (pastry shop) all over Italy. It is easy to make them, as long as you follow few tips during their making of! They are the perfect dessert for one of those incoming Christmas dinners and if you say they are home made you are sure none of them will be left on the tray!
For the dough:
2 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup water
6 large eggs
For the pastry cream:
4 cups milk
3/4 cup + other 3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 lemon zest (not grated but peeled off)
1 vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
1 cup cake flour
- Make the pastry cream: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn a pale gold colour. Whisk in the flour and set aside.
- Place the milk, vanilla bean (previously cut alongside) and lemon zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove lemon zest and let cool for 30 seconds.
- Slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the remaining milk in the pan. It is important to slowly pour the hot milk onto the cold eggs before you return the mixture to the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Bring the mixture back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth.
- Pour the cream into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Cool as quickly as possible, by sitting the bowl of pastry cream in another larger bowl of ice water. When cooled, refrigerate until needed.
- Make the dough: Put the butter, salt and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter has melted, then bring to the boil.
- As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat and quickly tip in the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon until the ingredients bind together into a dough.
- Return the pan to a low heat and continue to beat until the dough is a smooth, dry ball in the centre of the pan.
- Allow to cool for 2–3 minutes, then gradually beat in the eggs to make a smooth, shiny paste. Beat vigourously.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a baking tray with parchment papaer. Spoon 25-30 teaspoonsful of the mixture onto tray, about 1,5 inches apart. Alternatively, use a pastry bag fitted with a plain piping nozzle to pipe the bignè onto the baking tray. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the bignè are puffed and golden.
- Turn the oven off and pull the try slighlty out of it, but try not to completely remove it form there. Using a skewer or a small knife, pierce the base (or top) of each bingè to release the steam. Leave them in the oven for 15 minutes to dry out and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Assembling: Use a pastry bag fitted with a plain piping nozzle and fill it with the pastry cream.
- Make a tiny cut on the side of each bignè using a sharp knife or scissors and then put the nozzle in it and pipe the pastry cream.
- To guarnish you can use melted chocolate or some sugar powder mixed with few drops of water (you will get a quite liquid spread that will solidify in few minutes).