Whenever I asked my paternal grandmother if she would share her recipe for Bônet with me, a smile reminiscent of Mona Lisa would illuminate her face.
In every other way, my grandmother was the epitome of generosity. I remember feeling frustrated by her vague descriptions of the ingredients and cooking method for this delicate molded custard in caramel sauce. I slowly came to realize it was deliberate. She would never grant me the privilege.
I treasured her recipes for biscotti, fruitcake and antipasto. Why was she so Michelin-star guarded with her Bônet?
If I had to guess, in her own humble way, Grandma innately found a way to secure her own form of branded sense-memory.
It became her trademark.
Her unattainable legacy.
She did give me a recipe.
A recipe for how to remain an enigma well beyond the grave.
I know she’s still smiling.
Because I’ll most likely hang up my last skillet without ever having mastered her Bônet.
And that’s exactly as it should be.
All I can do is put on the apron she threw down.
Tie the strings in a bow behind my back.
And get cooking…
Mother’s Day Bônet 2017:
On a good day, I am at best an average cook. This was my first ever attempt at Bônet… I very loosely followed the Ristorante Babbo Enoteca recipe for Bônet Alla Piemontesi. In part, because I was trying to approximate my grandmother’s Bônet, and she was more likely to have ground cinnamon and instant coffee in her kitchen rather than cinnamon sticks and espresso beans. And as is also typical of my kitchen, I had some, but not all, of the ingredients their recipe listed.
There were a number of Piemontesi attributed Bônet recipes when I conducted my online search [my grandmother’s family originated in the Piemonte region], but none had the story and down to earth approach of Babbo’s Gina DePalma. When I initially read the recipe I thought the ice water would somehow cool the caramel-coated ramekins. After a second reading, I realized the ice water was to soothe caramel-burnt fingers. At last! A recipe for an injury-prone cook like me…
All variations in consistency and outcome are mine, and bear absolutely no reflection on Babbo…
Lesson #1: “I’m organic, sugar. I don’t do caramel…”
I think I won this battle, but I can’t be sure…
Lesson #2: I’m pretty darn sure it’s not supposed to look like this…
As is painfully obvious, the heated milk, sugar, dark chocolate bar and instant coffee absolutely refused to say “I do.” But Grandma took great pride in her resourcefulness, so I couldn’t throw it out… I just couldn’t… I did the next best thing. I set the whole mess aside and vowed to do something** with it, or to it, later…
Lesson #3: See #2 above.
Fiction: The Bônet declined the bain marie, in favor of a day at the spa with a complimentary milk bath.
Non-Fiction: Oops… Next time I will definitely pour the hot water in after, not before… as the recipe so wisely directed…
Lesson #4: See #2 and #3 above.
By the time I realized that the rose was pulling its version of a Minnie Pearl, we’d already dipped our spoons into the petite Bônet.
Note to self: never eat the props until you’ve checked the digital proofs…
Lesson #5: It’s definitely not Grandma’s or Babbo’s… And it’s most definitely not pretty… But the spoon-testers gave it a thumbs-up on taste…
With all gratitude to Ristorante Babbo for the recipe I took such liberties with…
** The Vow to Do Something With It, or to It, Later:
I added the leftover egg whites from the Babbo recipe + 1 whole egg to the 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, dark chocolate bar, instant coffee disaster + enough 2% milk to make it look right [maybe two to three cups give or take? I’d stopped measuring at this point…] + 1 crumbled Amaretti cookie* and then baked it, as prescribed, in a bath. Much to my surprise this accidental custard [pictured with strawberry above] came closer in both consistency and taste to my grandmother’s Bônet… Hmm…
[* I did not bake my own Amaretti. Maybe next time…]
Happy Mother’s Day!
Any enigmatic secret-recipe cooks in your family?
♥ ♥ ♥