Italian bigné for Father’s day and for Pentecote

Posted on

Citrus bergamia, the bergamot orange, is a fragrant citrus fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow or green color similar to a lime, depending on ripeness. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars found bergamot orange to be a probable hybrid of lemon and bitter orange.

The word bergamot is etymologically derived from the Italian word bergamotto, ultimately of Turkish origin: bey armudu or bey armut (“lord’s pear” or “lord pear”). Citrus bergamia is a small tree that blossoms during the winter. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. Be aware of that the bergamot orange is unrelated to the herbs known as bergamot, wild bergamot, bergamot mint, or bergamint –and Eau de Cologne mint (the taxonomy of which is disputed). Those latters are all in the mint family, and are named for their similar aroma.

Production

The bergamot is a citrus fruit native to southern Italy. Production is mostly limited to the Ionian sea coastal areas of the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the entire city. Most of the bergamot comes from a short stretch of land there, where the temperature is favourable. The fruit is also produced in Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and South-East Asia.

Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern Calabria (province of Reggio), southern Italy. It is also grown in southern France and the Ivory Coast for the essential oil and in Antalya in southern Turkey for its marmalade. The fruit is not generally grown for juice consumption. However, in Mauritius where it is grown on a small-scale basis, it is largely consumed as juice by the locals. Usualy extracts have been used as an aromatic ingredient in food, tea, snus, perfumes, and cosmetics (but bergamot may cause skin irritation). Use on the skin can increase photosensitivity, resulting in greater damage from sun exposure. One hundred bergamot oranges yield about three ounces (85g) of bergamot oil.

Adulteration with cheaper products such as oil of rosewood and bergamot mint has been a problem for consumers. To protect the reputation of their produce, the Italian government introduced tight controls, including testing and certificates of purity. The Experimental Station for Essential Oil and Citrus By-Products) located in Reggio di Calabria, was the quality control body for the essential oil Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria DOP during World War II, Italy was unable to export to countries such as the Allied powers. Rival products from Brazil and Mexico came on to the market as a substitute, but these were produced from other citrus fruits such as sweet lime.

An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavour Earl Gray and Lady Grey teas, as well as confectionery (including Turkish delights). Bergamot is one of the most common “casings” (flavorings) added to Swedish snus, a form of smokeless tobacco product.

Fragrance Bergamot oil is one of the most commonly used ingredients in perfumery. It is prized for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas that complement each other. Bergamot is a major component of the original Eau de Cologne composed by Jean-Marie Farina at the beginning of the 18th century in Germany. The first use of bergamot oil as a fragrance ingredient was recorded in 1714, and can be found in the Farina Archive in Cologne. However, much “Bergamot oil” is today derived instead from eau de Cologne mint also known as bergamot mint, which is a variety of water mint and is unrelated to citrus.

Toxicology

In several patch tests studies, application of some sources of bergamot oil directly to the skin of guinea pig was shown to have a concentration-dependent phototoxic effect of increasing redness after exposure to ultraviolet light (due to the chemical bergapten and possibly also citropten, bergamottin, geranial, and neral). This is a property shared by many other citrus fruits and other members of Rutacea including Rue). Bergapten has also been implicated as a potassium channel blocker; in one case study, a patient who consumed four litres of Earl Gray tea per day (which contains bergamot essential oil as a flavouring) suffered muscle cramps.

Italian bigné for father’s day with bergamot oil

I have an Italian friend, Luca who is fond of bergamot! He has told me several times that his “Mama” prepares the best Bigné with it. But what is bigné? -I asked him on the other day. And he was laughing meanwhile told the next:

“In my village the well known and beloved dolce (dessert) is the Bignè di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s beignet/Father’s Day Cream Puffs) they are deep-fried choux pastry puffs and filled with pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar. There are many version of this delicacy. My mom’s recipe is for the Roman version of Bignè di San Giuseppe, it’s heaven on Earth,-exagerates Luca just thinking of it and licks his lips meanwhile continues the story of the Bigné. “The cream filled puffs are surprisingly light and fluffy and on the top of that they are easy to make.

“To find the appropriate word to describe this sweet “extravaganza” that used to reign in Luca’s family for Father’s Day (celebrated on March 19th in Italy) is difficult, while they have become a mixture of three region’s: his mother Franca, is from Palermo, Sicily, and his father, Salvatore is from Naples. After living Sicily for Tuscany, Luca’s parents moved to Pontremoli, because of his father’s job. So in this recipe THREE different traditional treats appear to celebrate Father’s day. They had: Zeppole di San Giuseppe from Naples, Sfinci from Palermo and Bignè di San Giuseppe from Rome. To make it clear you need some more elaborate explanation:

“The Sicilian Sfinci are deep-fried too but covered (yep, on top not filled) with the cannoli filling (ricotta with sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate chips) on top and then sprinkled with pistachios. Candied cherry and orange complete this pure joy.

The Neapolitan Zeppole are baked or fried, topped with cream pastry and crowned by an amarena flavored cherry.

And my mom’s version is the Roman variety in which the method for make Bignè is the same as pate à choux or éclairs. It’s pretty precise, so “Cara Silvestra”(that’s me) you need a scale. 

Ingredients for 50 Pastry Puffs: 500 g water, 125 g butter, 7 g salt, 300 g all-purpose flour, SIFTED a couple of times (don’t skip this step), 500 g eggs (usually 500g are from 10 eggs but check by weight them, they need to be the same weight of water) at room temperature, Vegetable oil for frying

For the Pastry Cream: 460 g whole milk, 6 egg yolks 120 g sugar 60 g corn starch, bergamot orange juice and rind or Lemon rind and Vanilla extract, icing sugar to dust for final decoration

Instructions:

Starting with the pastry puffs Note: you can make one day ahead the choux pastry dough and keep it in the fridge.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted completely. Reduce heat to low and add flour. Stir the ingredients vigorously until a ball-shaped dough forms and a white film forms on the bottom of the saucepan (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and let it rest a few minutes so it’s not too hot for the eggs. Add just one egg at a time and incorporate well each before adding the next one. Do this until you have a thick cream. It’s possible that you won’t need all the eggs.

In a deep saucepan heat the oil to 370 degrees (If you don’t have a frying thermometer place a toothpick into the oil if it starts bubbling all around the temperature is good). Use two tablespoons to scoop out the dough and drop it carefully and gently into the hot oil, by using one spoon to push the dough off of the other. Do this for about 4 bignè at a time, do not crowd them in the pot. Cook until golden and puffy, turning with a slotted spoon to fry evenly on all sides. (If they brown too quickly it means the oil is too hot). The bignè require long frying, like 7/8 minutes as after 3 minutes you will notice they will pop and almost double in size and they have to keep frying to be fully cooked. When done place on a paper towel and let them cool.

Now make the pastry cream: This recipe is particularly made for the bignè because it’s very thick and it’s perfect to fill the puffs. I like to use the Montersino method (he is a famous Italian Pastry Maestro) to make this pastry cream because it’s quick and super easy. My mother has made it many times without failing so I really recommend it. Basically, you wait for the liquids to slightly boil, add the eggs beaten with the starch, and wait few seconds without touching it until it makes a big bubble. After that, all you need is just to whisk a for a little and it’s ready. More specifically: In a medium saucepan heat the milk with vanilla extract/bergamot or lemon rind. Meanwhile, beat very well the eggs with sugar, add cornstarch and mix gently with a spatula. When the milk starts bubbling on the sides of the pan it’s time to pour the mounted eggs and wait, without stirring. As soon as the milk goes over the eggs making a small volcano it’s time to quickly whisk the pastry cream for a few seconds and it’s ready! Remove the lemon rind (I love to eat it when it’s cool) if you used it, and cover with cling film touching the pastry cream to avoid the creation of any film on top. When the cream has cooled, it’s time to fill the bignè. Using a skewer or a piping nozzle make a hole in your pastry bun and fill with pastry cream using a piping bag. Pipe more on top and dust with powdered sugar. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s