Even cold from the refrigerator, one bite of Andrea Chiuni’s bonet alla Piemontese—a boozy chocolate custard flecked with bits of bittersweet almond cookies—made clear the meaning of “abbraccio,” a word the Turin chef struggled to translate.
Though traditionally baked as a loaf and served by the slice, bonet at Chiuni’s Tre Galline restaurant was served in individual ramekins, topped with an amaretto-laced caramel. The result was a creamy, comforting balance of bitter cocoa, silky sweetness and crunchy cookie.
“In Italian we’d say ‘abbraccio,’ but I don’t know what in English,” he said through a mouthful of bonet. It means hug. And eating it felt like a warm embrace.
The high price of cocoa in the 19th century limited this rich chocolate dessert to the city’s monied class. Today, it is a near-universal menu item in Turin. Cream, milk and sugar are heated and whisked with eggs. Cocoa powder, crumbled amaretti cookies and liqueur, usually amaretto, are added. Bonet used to be made in a double boiler—which resembled a traditional farmer’s cap, a possible explanation for the name—but today it’s often prepared in a caramel-coated loaf pan.
At its best, bonet is silky and rich, the cookie bits lending contrast. Though we loved the individual bonets Chiuni served, at Milk Street, we opted
We started by making a quick caramel in a saucepan, which we then poured into the bottom of the loaf pan. For the custard itself, we used the same saucepan to heat cream and brewed coffee—an addition that balanced and enhanced the chocolate. To that, we added crushed amaretti cookies, which softened in the warm liquid.
To ensure a smooth consistency, we whisked together the sugar and cocoa powder, minimizing any lumps. Then we whisked eggs, extra yolks and rum (less sweet and more common in the U.S. than amaretto) into the dry ingredients, gradually adding the cream-cookie mixture. The custard base went into the caramel-lined loaf pan, to bake in a water bath.
To play up the amaretti’s crunch, we sprinkled more on top of the finished custard. The result was as comforting as what we’d had in Italy.