bomboloni italian filled donuts

Have you ever heard of bomboloni? They don’t seem to be particularly well-known (if at all) in America, even though they’re basically the ideal American dessert: deep-fried, generously filled with various types of sweet filling from light whipped cream to rich chocolate, and dusted with sugar on top.

If the description reminds you of beloved American filled donuts - you’re not wrong! Bomboloni are just that: Italian filled donuts with a few key differences from our home-grown classic.

Let’s explore this traditional Italian dessert that is far too often overlooked in America, even though it fits American sensibilities to a tee!

What is a Bombolone?

A bombolone (pl. bomboloni) is an Italian doughnut typically filled with a sweet filling like custard, chocolate, jam, marmalade, etc. Thick Italian pastry cream (Crema Pasticcera) lightly spiked with limoncello liqueur is considered a classic option, but lighter whipped cream and heavier Nutella have become in-demand options as well.

The name itself, bombolone, is apparently derived from bomba (eng. bomb), and certain regions in Italy even refer to the pastry as such. According to the most popular theory, the name originated from the visual similarities of the bombolone doughnut with the old-fashioned grenade.

Easily found freshly baked at most Italian bakeries, they’re not so common outside their native country (not in the least because many countries have their own versions of filled doughnuts). Luckily, their fame in Italy has led to many manufacturers putting out commercially packaged versions on the market, some of which you can find at Yummy Bazaar’s own online pastry shop.

Interestingly enough, bomboloni aren’t necessarily a dessert: the doughnut can be filled with savory ingredients such as cheese, salami, and truffle oil, though the savory variety isn’t widespread even in its native Tuscany and almost never found outside Italy.

How is a Bombolone Made?

There are two types of bomboloni: the original Tuscan style and the Krapfen style, more common in the regions that used to be under Austrian rule (krapfen is an Austrian take on filled doughnuts). 

Due to the association of bomboloni with Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, the first is considered to be more traditional, though the latter has become more common over the years. To be fair, the two are pretty similar: both are made with sweet yeast dough, proofed for a few hours, and then fried in lard (a classic choice) or vegetable oil (the more common one these days) until golden brown and puffed like, well, a bomb. 

The crucial difference is the dough itself: Tuscan-style bomboloni apparently didn’t use eggs in the dough, while Krapfen-style ones did. These days, skipping the eggs in the bomboloni recipe is uncommon unless 1) we’re in Tuscany itself (and even that might not be a guarantee); 2) the bomboloni are explicitly claimed as vegan. 

Who Invented Bomboloni?

We don’t know. There aren’t any names associated with the pastry unless we consider the creator of krapfen (allegedly, a mystery German woman by the surname Krapf) to be the creator of one of the seminal traditional Italian desserts by proxy.

We do know that bomboloni first popped up in early 17th-century Tuscany. Likely the krapfen had made its way from Austrian-ruled areas, and local bakers started tweaking the recipe to be more to their liking (like skipping the eggs when kneading the dough) and ending up with the classic Italian bomboloni. 

Bomboloni vs. American Donuts: What is the Difference Between Doughnuts and Bomboloni?

Bomboloni are pretty similar to America’s favorite sweet snack, but there are several key differences between the two: firstly, American donuts are made with cut-out dough when bomboloni are formed into balls; secondly, the leavening process for bomboloni takes a lot longer, and they tend to be airier and fluffier than American donuts, and last but not least - bomboloni typically don’t have a glaze of any kind on top; instead they’re just lightly rolled in sugar.

Bomboloni vs. Berliner: Are They The Same?

Berliner, the modern German doughnut that also comes from the same krapfen that inspired bomboloni. It’s likely the most similar to bomboloni out of all the doughnut varieties: the dough is made with similar ingredients and formed into a ball before frying (vs. the American cut-outs), fried in oil until golden, and then having the filling piped in.

The most significant difference likely lies in the filling: while custard isn’t uncommon, it’s more traditional for Berliners to be filled with fruit-based products like jams, jellies, and marmalades. Also, bomboloni tend to have a higher filling-to-dough ratio, though this depends on the bakery; Berliners filled to a bream in a similar fashion aren’t all that rare.

Bomboloni vs. Zeppole: The Second Famous Italian Doughnut

A zeppola (pl. zeppole) is also a type of Italian doughnut and is thus often either mistaken for bomboloni or thought to be the same. 

There are certain similarities between the two, true enough: zeppola is also made by deep-frying a dough ball until it’s golden and then adding a sweet filling, most often Italian pastry cream, chocolate, or jam.

However, there are more than a few differences that make it easy to differentiate between the two: first of all, the dough for zeppole is made with ricotta cheese; second of all, it’s usually formed into a twist and has a small hole in the middle, and last, but not least, while there are certainly zeppole bakers that pipe the filling into the dough itself, it’s more customary to have the filling (custard, jam, chocolate, etc.) piped on top of the pastry, piling it up like a small mountain.

So yes, bomboloni and zeppole are both Italian donuts and are even somewhat similar, but there are more differences between the two than similarities. 

Bomboloni vs. Bambalouni: Similar Names, Different Doughnuts

Funnily enough, the doughnut with the similar-sounding name is the one that shares the least with Italian bomboloni. Bambalouni is a Tunisian doughnut. It has no filling; instead, the dough is shaped into a large circle, deep-fried, and then soaked in honey or dusted with sugar.

How are Bomboloni Served?

Bomboloni are certainly similar to classic American donuts in that they can be served either freshly out of the oven, while piping hot, or after they’ve completely cooled down to room temperature. The pastries are consumed throughout the day either as quick pick-me-up snacks or desserts after one has already had a full meal.

In Florence, however, it’s clear that locals prefer having their bomboloni in the first half of the day, freshly baked and piping hot. Doughnuts filled with sweet filling like thick pastry cream are a standard breakfast order at Florentine bakeries. 

What Do You Pair with Bomboloni?

When consumed by itself, as a breakfast, a bombolone is typically paired with a cup of cappuccino or a glass of milk (surprisingly, for adults as well, not only children).

In the latter half of the day, when the doughnuts are consumed as a snack or a dessert rather than an independent meal, they’re typically paired with coffee (not cappuccino, as Italians consider it to be a strictly morning drink) or tea, if they’re paired with anything at all. 

Can You Reheat Bomboloni?

Yes, bomboloni can be reheated, although one must be very careful not to overdo it. Properly reheating bomboloni takes little time, and you may end up, if not outright burning your doughnuts, then at least drying them out until they’re rubbery and inedible.

freshly baked bomboloni from a bakery is more fragile, so it’s better to heat up an oven instead of risking the microwave. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (you can lightly grease it to avoid the doughnuts sticking to the sheet), line up the bomboloni, and stick the sheet into the oven at 300°F oven until warm, about 3 to 5 minutes.

This approach might also work for a commercially packaged bomboloni, but it might be the rare instance in which a microwave might work even better (allowing for a more hands-on approach and smaller increments). Start with ten seconds at about 70% to 75% power. If it’s not fully warm, add a five-second increment at the same power. 

Warningdon’t try to make your bomboloni piping hot. By the time it reaches that temperature, be it in the oven or in the microwave, chances are it has already dried out too much to be tasty. You’re aiming for slightly warm but still airy and fluffy.

(And honestly, they’re certainly better when at room temperature but suitably fluffy than hot and dry). 

How Long Do Bomboloni Last?

Again, there’s a significant difference between a bombolone from a bakery and the commercially packaged one.

The fresh bombolone from the bakery can last for a day or two, though the second day would be pushing it: somewhere at this point, it’ll start going noticeably stale and lose a large part of its appeal - the light texture and smooth filling.

Commercially packaged bombolone (like the ones from Italian confectionary juggernaut Dal Colle) is much easier in this regard. As with other commercially packaged goods, it’s going to have a best-by or an expiration date printed on the label, and, if properly stored, it’s going to be good until that date is reached (which, for different brands, can vary from a month to six, if not more).

Warning: always carefully inspect the packaging when purchasing commercially manufactured bomboloni. If the packaging has been damaged, the product may be contaminated, and the expiration date is rendered invalid. If you notice any damage on the box, contact the manufacturer immediately, so they can assess the situation and provide further recommendations.

How Do You Keep Bomboloni Overnight?

Bomboloni are surprisingly easy to keep. Even freshly baked ones don’t require delicate handling: keep them covered and store them in a dry and moderately cool area, and they will easily keep overnight at room temperature. You may store them in a refrigerator, but that isn’t strictly necessary unless you’re dealing with summer heat, in which case keeping the doughnuts outside the fridge overnight may cause the filling to go sour.

The commercially packaged bomboloni are pretty similar in this regard, if more durable. The instructions on how to properly keep them are likely going to be printed on the label, so pay attention: they may differ between the brands, depending on the ingredients used.

Can You Freeze Bomboloni?

Yes, but you should think twice about it before you do. Some bomboloni doughnuts can survive freezing almost unscathed, while others significantly reduce in quality, becoming uncomfortably dry or rubber-like after thawing, not to mention the decrease in flavor quality. It all depends on the bomboloni in question! 

If we’re talking freshly baked bomboloni from an artisan bakery or your own oven, then freezing the leftovers is generally not a good idea. Even keeping them in the fridge for more than a couple of days isn’t a good idea, and by the end of that second day, you’ll already notice that they’ve started to taste stale.

Thawed bomboloni may not taste stale, but you’ll notice that the dough retains almost no airiness characteristic of fresh bomboloni, pointing to a significant decrease in quality. It certainly won’t make you fall ill, but you won’t be impressing any guests anytime soon.

Commercially packaged bomboloni, on the other hand, tend to take to freezing better, even if they do suffer a certain decrease in quality all the same. Overall, Commercially packaged doughnuts are made to last far longer than freshly baked ones, and the qualities that preserve them in boxes help with maintaining texture and flavor in the freezer, particular caveats notwithstanding. Make sure to wrap each doughnut individually in parchment or wax paper and place them in an airtight container before freezing. 

The trick to making the most out of frozen bomboloni is 1) not to overdo it: while it can last for months in the freezer, don’t keep it there for more than a couple of weeks; 2) be very careful with the thawing process.

How Do You Thaw a Frozen Bombolone? 

Interestingly enough, thawing in the microwave might work better than just letting it sit in the fridge overnight, as is advised with most products.

The trick is to go low and slow. Heat the bombolone in the microwave for ten seconds at 50% power, take it out, and lightly squish it to check if it’s been defrosted. If not, put the doughnut back into the microwave and thaw for additional five seconds. Repeat until the doughnut is completely defrosted and slightly (!) warm. If you feel like it’s overheating, simply leave it out and let the rest of the thawing take place at room temperature - overheating will ruin the texture, turning the bombolone into a dry, inedible bun. 

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