Julia Busuttil Nishimura's Bonet alla Piemontese

Bonet alla Piemontese: think creme caramel, but with cocoa, rum, coffee and crushed amaretti.
Bonet alla Piemontese: think creme caramel, but with cocoa, rum, coffee and crushed amaretti. Photo: William Meppem

Bonet, or "bunet", is a classic dessert from Piedmonte in northern Italy. Similar to a creme caramel, but with chocolate, rum, coffee and crushed amaretti biscuits, it's truly a showstopper. I first ate this wonderful dessert in Turin, in a small, elegant restaurant on a winter's evening, and I was completely enamoured of its texture and flavour. Serve it with extra amaretti biscuits and whipped cream this Mother's Day for an unforgettable dessert.

Ingredients

100g caster sugar

5 eggs

2 tbsp dark rum

500ml full cream milk

200ml pure cream

50g Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tbsp freeze-dried instant coffee* (or 2 tbsp strong espresso)

80g amaretti biscuits, crushed, plus extra whole ones to serve

whipped cream, to serve

For the caramel

100g caster sugar

2 tbsp water

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).

2. To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small pan over a medium heat. Cook the sugar until a dark, amber-coloured caramel forms, swirling the pan as needed (about 8-10 minutes). Refrain from stirring the caramel while it cooks, as it can crystallise. Pour the caramel into the base of a 23cm loaf tin and tilt the tin in all directions so the base is fully coated. Allow to set for 5 minutes.

3. For the custard, whisk together the sugar, eggs and rum in a large bowl until combined. Set aside. Warm the milk, cream, cocoa and coffee together in a medium pot over a medium heat to about 65C, whisking until the cocoa and coffee have dissolved.

4. Pour the warmed milk into the egg mixture, a little at a time, gently whisking as you go, while trying not to create too many bubbles. Stir the crushed amaretti biscuits through the mixture, then gently pour the custard onto the caramel.

5. Place the tin in a deep tray and then fill the tray with boiling water to create a water bath for the bonet. This will ensure a slower, more even cooking process. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. It should be just set, but still with a good wobble in the centre.

6. Remove the tin from the water bath and allow it to cool completely. Transfer to the fridge and chill for 2-3 hours, until set.

7. To serve, dip the base of the tin in a tray of hot water for 30 seconds. Run a knife around the edges of the custard to release it, then invert onto a serving plate. If needed, return the tin to the tray with hot water to melt any extra caramel left in the bottom, then pour over the bonet. Serve with extra whole amaretti biscuits and whipped cream.

Note: Traditionally, bonet was baked in the fire's final embers late at night, then served the following day. To achieve a similar slow and gentle heat, it can be cooked in a water bath in the oven until just set, but still quite wobbly. Once chilled, it firms up nicely.

*Bonet doesn't always have coffee in it, but I do love the extra little hit of bitterness it brings. Freeze-dried instant coffee is a great way of adding the coffee flavour without introducing any liquid, but a couple of tablespoons of espresso works well, too.