Need something to warm the soul? Albert Iacono shares a family favourite on how to make Italian doughnuts, ciambella, a family favourite that is also featured in his book, I only eat Bertoni.
We’ve been serving ciambella alla Nutella at Bertoni from the day we opened and they have become a signature sweet in our stores. These Italian-style doughnuts are the best served either fresh or toasted crisp with a layer of Nutella through the centre. Often imitated but never duplicated, this ciambella recipe is from Pasticceria Sulfaro, the Haberfield institution of dolci, who kindly offered to share it with us.
Prep time: 30 mins plus resting time
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Makes: 17 ciambelle
1kg baker’s flour, plus extra for dusting*
75g yeast (fresh or dry)
100g margarine or unsalted butter
100g caster sugar (fine grade granulated sugar), plus extra for coating
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
vegetable oil for deep frying
17 tablespoons Nutella
Combine the flour, yeast, salt, margarine, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and mix to combine. Work the dough using your fingers until it becomes crumbly. Carefully and slowly add 550ml of water, a little at a time, and knead the dough, tearing it apart and pushing it back together, until it is soft and moist. This kneading can take about 15-30 minutes (alternatively you can prepare this in an electric mixer).
Roll the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that is big enough to allow the dough to rise. Cover the bowl first with a clean tea towel and then with a heavy towel, ensuring no air can get through, and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes until it has slightly increased in size. As a guide, when you touch the dough before resting, it should feel stiff. When the touch the dough after resting, it should feel soft, and then you are ready to use it.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1cm thick. Using two doughnut cutters, cut out each doughnut. Use a larger cutter (around 6cm in diameter) to cut the doughnut and a small one to cut the doughnut hole. If there are any leftover dough from the doughnut holes, re-knead and roll the dough into a ball, and repeat the process.
Place each doughnut piece on a floured tray. Cover again with a clean tea towel and then heavier towel ensuring no air can get through, and leave to rest for 45 minutes to 1-hour, until the doughnuts have at least doubled in size. Your doughnuts are now ready to cook.
Fill a deep fryer with the oil and preheat to 180°C. Drop in the doughnuts 1-2 at a time, ensuring they do not touch each other, and fry for about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and then coat with extra caster sugar.
Ciambella all Bertoni
To make a variation of these doughnuts, slice each doughnut in half, add a good spread of Nutella, and put the two halves together. To make the doughnut crispy, place between sheets of baking paper and toast in a sandwich press.
Tip: You can change the flavours of the ciambelle by replacing the vanilla extract with lemon, orange, almond extract, or any other flavour you wish.
*Baker’s flour is best used for bread making and has a higher gluten and protein content than plain flour. It’s available from most gourmet food stores, but you can substitute using all-purpose plain flour.